Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Year of Brely Evans: Our Exclusive Interview with the Rising Star of 'Ambitions'

You may have watched actress, singer and entertainer Brely Evans in films like Sparkle, Just Wright or The Man in 3B. You might have enjoyed her work on TV shows like Last Call, Family Business or Being Mary Jane. Perhaps you her loved her music with R&B trio Emage. Or all of the above. But no matter where you might have seen her before, chances are she made a huge impression. Brely Evans is a star. And she's currently starring in Ambitions on OWN as the scene-stealing Rondell Lancaster, the sister of Atlanta Mayor Evan Lancaster and manager of the Thelma’s Place restaurant. She is fighting to keep her neighborhood from being taken over by corporate developers and discovering new strengths along the way.

We Love Soaps recently spoke with the talented multihyphenate about her career ambitions and her work on Ambitions. Check out our exclusive interview with Brely Evans below.

We Love Soaps: I'm calling 2019 "The Year of Brely Evans" because you're everywhere.
Brely Evans: Oh my God. I love that.

We Love Soaps: Can you give our readers a quick summary of your journey from the "pookie-pie" Twix commercial to starring this year in three primetime shows at the same time?
Brely Evans: Wow, you have done your homework. So that's where I started. I didn't know that I was an actor. I came to LA because music is my life, I love to sing. I was like, "Beyoncé who? It's all about Breloncé, okay?" So a friend of the neighbor said, "Oh, my God, I thought you were an actor. I would tell people that I live next door to this famous actress." And I said, "Well, you lied to a lot of people, because, no, I've never acted in my life." And he said, "Hey, I'm on my way to my agent's office, why don't you ride with me?"

And it was a commercial agent, and she signed me on the spot saying, "You should be on television," after one conversation. In that conversation she would say, "Hey, by the way, count the no's. That's a little game we play in the office, see how many no's you get before you get a yes." Oh, okay. So I went on, 10 auditions, no training, no head shot, no nothing, just walking in these doors. On my 10th audition I got my first yes. That was the Twix commercial. "Pookie-pie, do I look fat in these?" [laughs]

We Love Soaps: I think that pays a lot, so that's a good yes.
Brely Evans: It was an amazing moment for me. And when I got my first check for one 12-hour day of work I said, "Oh my God. I'm an actor. Where do I sign up for classes?" So that's when I began ...

We Love Soaps: And most actors aren't making any money at all.
Brely Evans: Right, just imagine 10 auditions within a month period of time, and then to land that, start getting that check and residual check from it, I was like, "Why did I go to college?" And my parents were like, "Yeah, right." I'm a college graduate, did all of that, was in business, and I sold real estate for some time.

We Love Soaps: You have a marketing degree, right?
Brely Evans: Yes, marketing degree.

We Love Soaps: I cyber stalked you all week in preparation for the interview. [laughs]
Brely Evans: I love that, so you know my whole musical background, and that I sang first and was in a group called Emage, and traveled with the Backstreet Boys. And then once that kind of fell away that's when I got into the real estate world here in LA. And acting just kind of what they called bit by the bug, I was bit. After just that experience of being able to have fun all day and really just use my talent to make money, I said, "Oh, this is my life." So that's how I officially became an actor.

And then also when I started training and things, I realized, "I could still use my musical gifts within the acting," which takes me to my first movie on the timeline, so that is what? I'm giving you a quiz now. [laughs]

It's actually Just Wright with Queen Latifah and Common.

We Love Soaps: Yes!
Brely Evans: That was my very first movie experience, and that experience literally gave me my wings. I was in scenes with the Queen Latifah, and we had to do the scene like 12 times or so, and I leaned over to her and I said, "Am I doing it wrong? Why do they keep having us do it over and over again?" Like, I was in The School of Latifah, okay? And she said, "Honey, they're taking it from different angles. Notice how the cameras are moving, the lights are moving." And I said, "Oh, okay, I thought I was doing it wrong. I was getting so nervous." She said, "No, Boo Boo, do you." Her exact words.

The moment she said that I feel like wings grew out of my back, and I begin to even have fun with the lines, kind of zhuzh in a Brely way. And from doing that, the director, Sanaa Hamri, who now directs all the shows Fox like Star and Empire, said the energy between Dana (Latifahn's birth name) and I was so infectious. I went there as co-worker one, after I did my first scene I went back to my trailer to pass things up, I was done, I only had one scene, I was co-worker one. I got a knock on my trailer door that said, "Your name is Sabrina Geller, and you will be here for the entire scene of the movie, we are writing you in this movie." So everything you see in Just Wright, after that very first scene you see me in, was written while I was there.

We Love Soaps: Wow.
Brely Evans: What I'd tell you - I couldn't make this stuff up.

We Love Soaps: Whether you're doing comedy or drama or hosting or singing or making YouTube videos, you're so natural. And when I started doing interviews ... like I would interview celebrities on camera, and it took me years to not look like a complete dweeb, so how do you make everything seem so effortless?
Brely Evans: I think I make it look effortless because I love people. I don't think I've ever met a stranger. I just have this thing that I just love people so much and I want to know what makes you happy and what makes you smile. I'm just so interested in people that everyone gets comfortable and then we all have a good time. You know what I mean? It's just a good time, it's always a good time.

We Love Soaps: Over the years, you have worked with a lot of people that our audience loves, such as Sean Ringgold (One Life to Live).
Brely Evans: Yes, oh, my gosh.

We Love Soaps: And Lamman Rucker (As the World Turns, All My Children) at one point.
Brely Evans: Yes, The Man in 3B.

We Love Soaps: Yeah, Sean was on One Life to Live for many years.
Brely Evans: Oh my gosh.

We Love Soaps: And we interviewed him a lot back in the day. He's kind of blown up since then.
Brely Evans: Oh, Sean. He played my love interest on Family Business, which is on BET. I played Nurse Sonya. And when I say we got called from the creator of the show, Carl Weber, who has a book series that he's turning it into a television series, and he said, "People are loving y'all's relationship. This is like the hottest thing on the show." And then Sean and I are like, "Really?" Sean is fantastic. Working with him is so easy, and he makes it just so fun and we really relate to one another. And we really construct what we're going to do and what the meaning behind the lines are. He goes deep. And I think when you have camaraderie with your castmates like that, it just creates magic.

And then, do you know that with Lamman Rucker in particular, that was on The Man in 3B, that was my first on-screen kiss.

We Love Soaps: Really?
Brely Evans: And he just made it so amazing for me.

We Love Soaps: He's a nice guy to do that with. [laughs]
Brely Evans: Right? I mean, all of my girlfriends were jealous. [laughs] Oh my God, I was like, "Guys, guys, guys, he's married." But it was just his gentleness, his patience, he said, "I know this is your first time, this is how we do it. We're going to have to do it a bunch of times." I have had the best experience kind of being the newbie on the set with these guys who really just make it so comfortable for me. I can see why your audience loves him.

We Love Soaps: Some of it may be that you've worked with really good people, but I think you have such a joy about you that you attract that back too. A lot of you get back is what you put out there.
Brely Evans: I think that has to be it. Even my last character on my sitcom comedy, Last Call, was named Joy, and people would say, "Oh, that's who you are on the show, you bring the joy." I said, "Well, I'll do that, no problem."

We Love Soaps: That looked like a really fun set. Was it as fun as it looked?
Brely Evans: It was basically. Can I say something? I said, "You guys are going to pay me to be in this comedy master class, no problem, I'm there." I mean, Carl Payne, T.C. Carson, Malik Whitfield, I couldn't pay enough money to be around those guys every day, watching them create, and like, "How did you come up with that?" Oh, my goodness, like they will be off the page so much, I just ... I learned so much. So I've just been blessed, I don't know what else to call it, it's just a true blessing.

We Love Soaps: You've ventured a bit into directing and producing, is doing more of that on your list of ambitions?
Brely Evans: You know, my list of ambitions is so long. I haven't delved into the directing as of yet, but the producing - yes. I have about 15 show ideas that I've registered with the WGA. I am just waiting for the team of writers. Our creator, let's discuss Jamey Giddens, who is fantastic.

We Love Soaps: I love him so much.
Brely Evans: His story of how he's come to this time in his life with Will Packer, I just thank him every chance I get because I'm like, "Guess what? If you weren't going after your dreams, then I couldn't realize mine. And I'm just so grateful that you just kept going, that you said yes to the process, and that you didn't get scared, and that ..." Oh, it just blows my mind.

So with that being said, it's like I want people around me like him, that I can help put these other stories out into the world that I've been sitting on for all these times. Because I said, "I need to focus on the acting, really stick my heels in there, really understand that process before I move onto the next." And I think the time is coming for that producer hat, I really do.

We Love Soaps: I produce an awards show called the Indie Series Awards, and t's a very inspirational event that celebrates creators that want to tell their stories. Nobody was giving them that chance but they wouldn't accept no for an answer and decided to make it themselves. If you're in LA in April I would love you to be part of that.
Brely Evans: You couldn't say it fast enough. Can I host it? Can I present an award? What can I do to help further that thing? That sounds like a group of people I would love to be around, so yes, yes, yes.

We Love Soaps: So speaking of Ambitions, I adore your character Rondell Lancaster, and I said that from the first episode. They sent us screeners but I didn't actually screen any of it because I wanted to watch live. I loved Rondell as soon as I saw the premiere.
Brely Evans: Nice.

We Love Soaps: I want to know how would you describe her, and how much do you have in common with Rondell?
Brely Evans: I would describe Rondell as the sister friend, the girlfriend who's going to keep it 100, the mother who's going to keep you in line, but the aunt who's going to let you slide. [laughs] She's so like fantastic, I just fell in love with her the moment I read her. I felt like I really knew her because she embodies some of the same qualities I do as a human being, one that stands up for what is right, for the greater good of the people, whether my life is in front of it or not, the voice to the voiceless, you know?

So I really resonate with her, her tenacity. I just love her, because she's a real woman. This is a real woman, and everybody knows, you know? And if you don't know her, go find yourself a Rondell, because she's going to help you get through life while she's here. And I desire to be that person for so many people.

We Love Soaps: I found myself a Kevin who's pretty similar. [laughs]
Brely Evans: I love it, I love it.

We Love Soaps: So kind of along those lines, Rondell's gotten political by standing up against a big development trying to take over her neighborhood, The Banks. Why do you think she's so determined to keep Thelma's Place alive? A lot of people in the neighborhood are selling out, and they're like they think they're better off moving away, but she's really dug her heels in. What do you think it's so important to her?
Brely Evans: That restaurant and that neighborhood is so important to Rondell because it is the very legacy of her family. It symbolizes everything that her parents stood for, that they dreamed of and, by God, she's going to make sure that their dream stayed alive, that's the end of it, that is the foundation for which she stands. She's really all about family, she doesn't like all of her brother's political choices, and even their marital choices, but she loves them so much that she's going to stand for him at all cost.

So that's what it means to her, it's just a family, she's like, "When do we get back to fighting for what our parents want?" And after losing her mother, this is like this is all she's got left. I mean, like you really want to take the last standing viable piece of her mom away? Oh, no, she's not going for it. So it's just a family unit type of thing.

We Love Soaps: So speaking of getting "political" in quotes, I'm a bit in love with Kent after he rented off Thelma's Place and serve Rondell all of her favorite foods and all of my favorite food, smothered pork chops, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese...
Brely Evans: Oh yes, Lord.

We Love Soaps: Do think they are in it for the long haul or is this sort of a passing thing?
Brely Evans: Rondell has finally found an ally that could really help her with her initiative, you know what I'm saying? And it's cool that he ends up being a handsome man at the same time, that doesn't hurt. But it's more about getting the work done for Rondell. And then this guy is kind of smoothing in as a love interest, and it's like, could her wildest dreams becoming true that I can have what I want as far as the restaurant, the neighborhood and all that, someone to helped me really get it done in real life and I can have love? She's going to take it slow, she's not as promiscuous as the others on the show. You're going to have to work for it, buddy. You're going to have to work for it. [laughs]

So working with Yohance Myles, can I just say he's amazing? He's the type of actor that is another one I would put on the list I just made with the other guys that I've worked with, because he's that type to say, "Let's take our time, let's really delve in. Let's talk about this. Let's see how we're going to create this moment and what it really means to these characters."

We do the undercurrent work so that when you get to see what happens on screen you're thinking, "Oh, my God," you know what I mean? It's because we've layered that thing so much before we even got to the camera. So working with Yohance has just been amazing. But it's something that I want the audience to really watch slowly. It's going to be a slow-burning romance.

We Love Soaps: So the Lancaster family...what's it like working with Brian J. White and Tony Vaughn. You and Tony Vaughn are playing the normal people in the sea of craziness.
Brely Evans: Well, I happened to be a daddy's girl in real life, so the way we interact with each other is so real. And he has a daughter who is close in age to me. So it really just fits and our chemistry is honest. We're really loving on each other. I'm really mad at him when I'm mad at him. And when I say, "Daddy," it just puts a smile on my face because I think about my own dad. I am Carl Evans' baby all day long.

And Brian, my brother, my goodness. Brian is one of the most well-read persons you could ever work with. He's so knowledgeable about so many facets of the world of acting. And then also he has a lot of knowledge in the political world, so he will describe to us off-screen what's really happening and what this really means and give us examples in real life. "Remember this neighborhood was like this, remember when this happened? Well, that was the eminent domain taking force." He's like an encyclopedia.

And so it's so refreshing to work with someone whose mind has expanded beyond just the acting that we do. So I've learned so much in this process from these great people I've been around.

We Love Soaps: We've seen Rondell go at it with her sister-in-law, Stephanie, a few times, but I really want a big brawl. I'm not sure what I'm expecting but I hope we can continue to see Rondell as a thorn in Stephanie's side continuously.
Brely Evans: I don't know if that thorn is going to ever be taken out, because Stephanie is just one to be reckoned with, it's like she just stops at nothing. She has strong personality and will, and Rondell also has that strong personality and will. So I don't know if this will ever happen, because how does it unless they get on the same team and do something. I have no idea. It's just a wonderful combative yet loving, I don't even know what to call it, it's like this is how we see our in-laws at times. You love them or hate them, you know what I'm saying?

We Love Soaps: It's funny because in the Stephanie versus Rondell battle, I'm Team Rondell, but Stephanie versus Bella I'm Team Stephanie.
Brely Evans: Isn't that something? And that's the love or hate thing that I'm talking about, you know what I mean? It's like on one hand I just want to wring your neck, but on the other hand I want your marriage to be right. Robin is playing the role so fantastic that she has to remind people, "Hey, guys, it's a character."

We Love Soaps: As the season goes along, she seems to be getting more and more into it. She's getting better and better each episode.
Brely Evans: Yes, I totally agree. What she's doing is settling into it. The seat is hot but it's becoming comfortable, it's like this thing that hurts but you keep doing it anyway.

We Love Soaps: I like watching Stephanie enjoying being bad.
Brely Evans: Right! And don't we enjoy watching it.

We Love Soaps: Episode 7 is coming up. Is there anything you could tease for us about what's going to happen with Rondell?
Brely Evans: Well, I just will say the friends that I'm making ... Rondell finds Amara to be a friend, despite all the things that are going on around the relationships she found someone that understands and that gets her. And that's refreshing. And it's real. So without giving away too much I just want to just focus on that relationship, it is going to blossom a bit more. The way Jamey [Giddens] would put it, our executive producer and writer, the way he would put it is likening them to Karen and Val from Knots Landing.

We Love Soaps: Now that's a true decades-long friendship, the real deal.
Brely Evans: Right, so this is the beginning of it, this is the beginning of two women that say, "You know what? Although we're worlds apart in how we live our lives, what we do and how much money we make, all that stuff, I get you." The similarity is so strong that it's going to ... You guys are going to enjoy watching it unfold I'll say that. So that, and also the course of Greg Peters. I would also say ... Greg Peters and Rondell have this energy that is going to combust, and that's all I'm going to say. How it's going to combust?

We Love Soaps: He's already "combusting" with Stephanie. [laughs]
Brely Evans: It's going to get real tricky.

We Love Soaps: I would love to see Rondell in the middle of that. I was hoping she would find out about him and Stephanie.
Brely Evans: Well, it's going to be interesting.

We Love Soaps: So with all your success, we talked a little bit about producing, is there anything that you haven't done at all that you want to do in the future? I feel like you could do everything in the world, and you're probably going to do it in the next like six months.
Brely Evans: Oh, I love it, you are the best.

I would just say that what I haven't done is producing from thought to finish, to in the can. I haven't done it yet but it's rolling towards me very quickly. It's almost just like picking a project and who to do it with kind of thing. We have one that's pushing out forward, I'm so excited about it, I can't talk about it of course right now. But yeah, the producer thing is actually happening. I've had one of my acting coaches tell me, "Brely, you must direct, you have it in you." And so I have studied with him, and he has made me direct some of the students at his class in like in the short skits and plays and things like that here recently.

And I just naturally fell into it. I was like, "Whoa, I know the language, I know what I'm looking for, I know what I want my end result to be. And I can help them from an actress perspective navigate through that thing." And I didn't even know I could do it until he made me do it.

We Love Soaps: Watching the videos on your YouTube channel, you just have a good eye, like the Wakanda dance class, everything.
Brely Evans: [laughs] Oh my goodness, I'm so embarrassed. But I love the camera.

We Love Soaps: You have a great eye. Really, you just have it, so keep doing it.
Brely Evans: Thank you.

We Love Soaps: For any young fans out there who maybe want to have like a multi-layered career or have multi-focused career ambitions like you, what advice would you give them?
Brely Evans: My advice is to be multi-talented can sometimes be a curse, because you got the old saying, "Jack of all trades, master of none." I would tell you - Focus on one of them. Remember, I was a singer first, I focused on that and did well there. But as I came into this acting, I put the singing away, I got into the language, I got into the study, I got into the ... I let acting get into my body in every aspect. And I put the other things away. As the acting is leading me back, I'm able to then open the doors to the singing again. Now the producing and the future directing.

So let one be the catalyst. I promise you, I know it'll feel like, "Oh, I can't, but I like to do them all." No, no, no. Let one of them open the doors for the rest. I promise you, it will never steer you wrong. But go deep in one of them.

We Love Soaps: That's great. And then that'll lead you to "Ambitions the Broadway Musical."
Brely Evans: I love it! You know what? You're speaking things into existence, because that would just be fantastic.

We Love Soaps: I hear Jamey Giddens may be here in New York soon so I'm going to tell him he has to at least have a musical episode.
Brely Evans: Please, please tell him, get to writing, put that pen to the paper, guy.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Don't miss Ambitions, tonight at 10 p.m. ET/PT on OWN. Check out a sneak peek below.

Roger Newcomb is a producer and writer in New York City. He has written and produced a full-length indie film, Manhattanites, and two radio dramas. He founded and produces annually the Indie Series Awards, which honors the best in independent entertainment on the Web. He was executive producer on the indie short May Mercy Lie and, from 2009 to 2013, created and hosted We Love Soaps TV. He has also made acting appearances in shows such as Imaginary Bitches and Empire. Recent film appearances include the documentary Soap Life—ruminating alongside Agnes Nixon and Eileen Fulton—and James Franco's indie feature, Francophrenia. He currently produces and co-hosts entertainment talk show Serial Scoop Now.

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