Brandee Evans (Courtesy photo)

Actress Brandee Evans stars in the sold-out performance of the stage play “Black Cypress Bayou” at the Geffen Playhouse, which completes its run March 17. Evans is also starring as Mercedes Woodbine in the hit Starz dramatic series “P-Valley,” and as Sage in the BET crime drama TV show “The Family Business.”

Originally from Memphis, TN, Evans says Memphis was a little rough at times, but it is a place she loves and calls home. She also says her hit show “P-Valley” is based on her native land and a little area once known for its gentlemen’s clubs called “P—y Valley.”

Evans states that when she first auditioned for “P-Valley” she had no idea the creator and showrunner of the show, Katori Hall, was from Memphis, too.

“I did my research and I said, ‘Wait, she’s a Memphis girl,’ and not only is she a Memphis girl but she wrote on a newspaper I created back home years ago, so we literally lived so close to each other and didn’t even realize it,” said Evans.

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Before P-Valley, Evans remembers her days working as an English teacher at Southwind High School in Memphis and serving as the department chair. She says she was also a dance coach like her character “Mercedes” from “P-Valley.”

Evans says she shares many other similarities with Mercedes.

“My dad was a preacher, so I grew up being a P.K. [preacher’s kid] … and I taught dance class, so I had a dance company called Hip Hop in Heels,” said Evans. “Everything just kind of aligned and made sense.”

Having a background in education and journalism, Evans says her interests switched to acting after taking a class with actress, director, and producer Tasha Smith at the Tasha Smith Actors Workshop (TSAW).

Brandee Evans as LadyBird Manifold in “Black Cypress Bayou” at the Geffen Playhouse. (Courtesy photo)

“I went to Tasha’s class and said, ‘I could do this for the rest of my life,’” said Evans. “I was obsessed with it.”

When considering her work now on “Black Cypress Bayou,” Evans says this is her first time on a real stage.  Even though she has participated in one-night only performances, she says this experience with “Bayou” was all new to her.

“The only thing that felt safe was the stage, and I say that because I was a back-up dancer for years.  So, being on tour with [singer] Katy Perry and [rapper] Snoop [Dogg], [singer] Kelly Rowland, and a few others… that was all normal to me,” said Evans.

She continued, “When they [the stage crew] told me ‘we want you to check out the stage and see if you feel safe,’ I said ‘Chile, I’ve been on stages all over this world. That’s not my problem. Let me make sure I know my lines!’”

Evans says she became a member of “Black Cypress Bayou’s” cast because of her agent. However, she says she already had a desire to tap into theater because of the strength and foundation theater can offer to an actor.

“I think if you’re really serious about acting you need to get some theater in your body.  And I know for a fact everything I’ve learned from the moment I have been working with [‘Bayou’ playwright] Kristen [Adele Calhoun] and Tiffany [Nichole Greene], our director has made me a better actress,” said Evans.  “I can’t see myself now not doing theater.”

Evans says the first thing that resonated with her about the “Black Cypress Bayou” script was the dialect, because it reminded her of where she grew up.

“It felt like when I read Katori Hall’s words,” Evans said. “I remember when I got “P-Valley’s script, I said, ‘It feels like home,’ and that’s what ‘Black Cypress Bayou’ feels like. It feels like home.”

Brandee Evans as Mercedes Woodbine in “P-Valley.” (Courtesy photo)

Evans says there are also many themes in “Black Cypress Bayou” that will resonate with Black audiences, like land theft, lynchings, and many other indignities felt by African Americans.

Evans describes her character LadyBird Manifold in “Bayou” as a lover of people, especially her family. The play takes place during the COVID-19 lockdown, and because of Ladybird’s affinity towards humankind, Evans says she is a strong proponent of following COVID safety protocols.

Evans says she is much like LadyBird in many ways because as a caregiver to her own mother, she is also very concerned about her mom’s health and well-being.

“That was me during the pandemic and even to this day. You can’t come into my house without taking your shoes off, and we have shoe covers in the front. You need to wash your hands,” said Evans. “There are masks right at the front door, right now, at my house.”

Evans says the play is also about growth, love, fear, beauty, and dealing with past traumas Black people tend to keep secret.

“There can be so much happening in our houses and our families, then it comes out one day, and that’s what you’re getting in ‘Black Cypress Bayou,’” said Evans. “You’re seeing… when the truth comes out it’s like ‘Why you ain’t ever told us that before,’ but then mama’s like, ‘I held it so you wouldn’t have to.’”

In addition to Evans, “Black Cypress Bayou” stars Amber Chardae Robinson as Taysha Hunter, Angela Lewis as RaeMeka Manifold-Baler, and Kimberly Scott as Vernita Manifold.

Evans says if “Black Cypress Bayou” were to go on to Broadway from the Geffen, she would love to stay on as a part of the cast and continue portraying LadyBird.

“Of course, I can’t lock into anything right now because we’re getting ready for season 3 of ‘P-Valley,’ said Evans. “I’m definitely open, and if they can work with my schedule, absolutely I want to be LadyBird everywhere they go.”

Upcoming for Evans are roles in the films “The Fabulous Four” and “The Color Book.”

For more information on actress Brandee Evans, visit, and for more information on “Black Cypress Bayou,” visit