Bentley Kyle Evans Photo: Courtesy Photo
LA Native Bentley Kyle Evans has Been to the Top and is Still Rising
Accomplishing in just four years what most are lucky to achieve in ten, Bentley Kyle Evans went from getting a seat in the writers’ room on a primetime television show (Martin), to overseeing operations on set as the show runner and co-executive producer, in no time flat.
Before he was even thirty years old Evans had what many producers never accomplish, two hit television shows (Martin and The Jamie Foxx Show) on two separate major networks (The WB and FOX) simultaneously.
All of this, in an industry dominated by white culture and white people.
Evans, born and raised locally in what is now known as “the Black Beverly Hills,” remembers when his family was one of only three Black families on his block in the Windsor Hills community.
“This area holds so much sentimental value for me. This is where I grew up, my neighborhood…I don’t have one of those coming out of the hood stories, I represent a thriving Black middle class community, that’s where I came from, what I’m the product of,” says Evans who attended Westchester High at the same time as actresses Regina King and Nia Long.
Evans says he had no idea he, King and Long would all end up working in the same industry.
“There was a hot bed of talent in the Westchester area, “ said Evans.
“The kids at Hollywood High, and Beverly Hills High were doing their thing, and we were doing ours. But I never thought I’d work in the industry…it wasn’t until I was eighteen at Santa Monica college not really sure what direction I was going that I found this business.”
Evans recalls a friend of his De'voreaux White, who was acting at the time. White put him in touch with Robert Townsend who gave him a start as a PA at his production company, taking him under his wing as a mentee. From there the young Evans never looked back, propelling quickly into all facets of television production both in front of and behind the camera.
“Creative geniuses” is how Evans describes both of his former colleagues Martin Lawrence and Jamie Foxx – geniuses who clearly saw something special in Evans. Working on those breakout shows with Lawrence and Fox is where Evans learned a great deal about the industry, and what it took to be a producer. Evans remembers that era as a “new incarnation of African American themed shows.” From the Blacksploitation of the ‘70s to The Cosby Show and A Different World of the ‘80s, at the time in the ‘90s and early ‘00s Evans saw himself as someone just working on a show. The significance of being the first African American to executive produce two shows on two different networks at once didn’t really sink in.
“It’s funny when you’re going through something you don’t realize what you’re a part of,” said Evans of a time that many look at as the “golden era” in Black television. “It didn’t feel like I was a part of this new found revolution, it just felt like ‘I’m in a position working on a show’…so when we went into the ‘90s it didn’t feel more special it just felt like it was our turn.”
But the early successes of Evans’ career were followed by a nine-year hiatus from the business during a period when television was going through big changes,
“You had an audience that was underserved (African Americans) and the shows targeting them were becoming successful…so it got to a point where networks were turning it into a gimmick, and the content started to become watered down…then reality TV started to take over and that’s just not what I’m into,” he explained.
It was a first time meeting with Tyler Perry that helped inspire the producing giant to step back into the industry he fell in love with.
“When we met for the first time he knew exactly who I was and that was pretty special. I had inspired him, and actually he had inspired me as well, inspired me to come back.”
Now Evans is back in the producer chair more motivated than ever. Once again with more than one sitcom on the airwaves, Evans has a new goal of being the “go-to” guy for Black comedy.
Love That Girl is a scripted comedy Evans created working with his old friend Martin Lawrence. Airing on TV One the show was originally based around a character played by Tatiana Ali.
Set in a real estate office – an element Evans got from his own life growing up with a father in real estate – Love That Girl has been nominated for, and won, a number of awards. In it’s fourth season, Ali has stepped back from the acting side of the show and into more of the behind the camera work, making room for comedian Bresha Webb, originally the show’s break out comedian, as the new star.
My Crazy Roommate and Family Time are two more shows Evans created which have both premiered on Bounce TV. My Crazy Roommate Evans describes as an ode to the Laverne and Shirley series.
“These girls get into all kinds of stuff, it’s just like a slice of life into their lives and a lot of fun.”
We can look forward to a lot more from the veteran producer whose main goal is creating lasting programming. When asked if he’s inspired to get back to the major networks surprisingly, Evans said he is not,
“I’m not necessarily inspired to get back to the network, I don’t really care about the letters of the network, that’s not important to me anymore. I’m in the content providing business now so wherever I can sell my content, it’s not a matter of prestige for me…I want to leave a legacy behind for my kids to capture.”