He Wins: A One-On-One Interview with Comedian BT Kingsley
By: Monique Ranae
I first met BT Kingsley in 2011 at the Bay Area Black Comedy Competition Semi-Finals. There was something about him that totally captured the audience. I almost felt like he knew something we didn’t and that he couldn’t wait for us to find out. Kingsley had old soul, new swagger and appeal that crossed all barriers. He was cool and collected but still funny as hell. I got to see more of his act throughout the years and he’s continued to grow artistically but also as a business man. Just recently he set the bar for Twitter’s new livestream Application ‘Periscope’ by creating live mini-episodes derived from and used to promote his new Film!!
Recently I caught up with the future superstar/mogul. He still knows something a lot of us have yet to find out, but we are a lot closer to seeing it than we were before. Kingsley has been busy taking advantage of opportunities in Hollywood AND creating opportunities for himself and for his peers. Touring the world, Writing and Producing Movies, and making TV Appearance are just a few things he’s been up to. In this 2-part interview we talk about the present but a lot about the future of his career and his newest project, ‘She Wins’.
Monique Ranae: What have you been up to this last couple of years?
BT Kingsley: Umm, Going around doing the LA Thing, you know. I have a good team around me. My Agency and my manager so I’ve been playing the LA game real close. I’m still touring with Don DC Curry learning a lot. And I do my own little dates but other than that I’m in the city, you know, tryna’ make it happen. Just did BounceTV and Magic Johnson’s Aspire Network for Laff Mobb’s ‘Who Got Next?’ you know…
Monique Ranae: I see you’ve done a lot of traveling this year with the Dubai Trips and Paris I think, right? You’ve done quite a bit, even outside of touring with comedy legend Don “DC” Curry.
BT Kingsley: Dubai, Paris, I did Japan not too long ago. And I’m all over the states consistently. Outside of Hawaii, Alaska and the Dakotas I think I’ve performed everywhere else. If not I’m real close.
Monique Ranae: Wow, so you’re gone quite a bit. That’s great for someone at this stage of the game.
BT Kingsley: Sometimes I’m gone but the agent and the manager try to stay on me about being here [in LA] more.
Monique Ranae: Of course! So you can get those roles and all that good stuff.
BT Kingsley: Yeah cause I did the Ford commercial and it was everything. Full campaign, four commercials and they’re talking about bringing it back and I need them to. I need them to bring it back! (laughs)
Monique Ranae: Well, who doesn’t like residual checks…?
Monique Ranae: The last time we spoke was at the Viewing of ‘Joke Thief: The Movie’ last year in Oakland, CA. That was a dope premise.
BT Kingsley: The Joke Thief was a short. Before that I was doing my little web stuff but then I produced a short-short called ‘The Trap’ which we were going to turn into a full length feature. It was real short like six minutes or so but in the middle of trying to make that a full length feature, my manager Tony Spires came to me with this fantastic idea for Joke Thief. It was a great idea about plagiarism… I always say anybody can relate to someone stealing from them. I played a comedian by the name of Cab Calloway who decided he was going to steal his way to the top. Willie Mills Johnson was also in the movie and I learned a whole lot from him. In the movie I stole a bunch of jokes from his character cause he was old and what’s he gonna’ do about it? And my character gets what’s coming to him. Yeah, it was cool to play it from that angle.
Monique Ranae: Are you just working on your projects though? You’re practically surrounded by amazing talent amongst your friends alone.
BT Kingsley: I was also production manager on ‘Marvin’s Road for Nate Jackson. Tony was the director for that so on and so forth. And then I did a feature film called ‘Musliumah’ that I acted in where I played an American Muslim. I had to learn Arabic and all the stuff for the movie and oddly enough, he wanted to be a comedian. I don’t touch comedy until the end of the movie but it’s really, really good. It’s well put together-Excellent. O.G. Bobby Johnson is in it. It was good times.
Monique Ranae: So right now you’re working on ‘She Wins’. Tell me a little bit about that.
BT Kingsley: That’s my Baby.
Monique Ranae: What is the concept for she wins?
BT Kingsley: Well, I mean, dating in LA is HARD. Dating everywhere is hard. I think that safe to say. But in this city [Hollywood] specifically, the difference is because there’s famous people, entertainers or whatever, you never really know who you’re talking to. So you’re having a conversation; everything is going good, you know, you’re dating someone. You go out a couple times… they have money but you don’t exactly know what they do. And in the essence of getting to know people, they don’t say all the details, not that its supposed to keep you around but… you’re dating someone, its going good, you go out and they want to go to this fancy restaurant and you’re like “I don’t know if we should go to that restaurant. That’s a little expensive… kind of out of my budget. I make a little bit of money but…“ and they’re spending money like water and they don’t say anything, then they’re like “Oh, I’m Stevie Wonders’ son…” You didn’t wanna say anything about that? (Laughs). And that’s consistent in this city. You’ll be talking to someone and they’re the head of ABC or a porn star or Teddy Riley’s daughter. You be like “Come on son…” With everyone here pursuing their dreams, it’s kinda hard to focus on love and the happy ending. So that is what inspired it.
Monique Ranae: So she wins is a full length feature? Tell me a little about the roles you played in production.
BT Kingsley: It’s a full length feature…95 pages; an hour and a half movie. I can humbly say that I executive produced it. I starred in it. I wrote. Me and Tony Spires wrote it together but I did a lot of writing on it. I casted every person, I don’t know how else to say it…but like, I Tyler Perry’d it!
Monique Ranae: You Tyler Perry’d it? (Laughs)
BT Kingsley: You know when you have all the answers. We’re on set and somebody’s like “When we eatin?” I had to take care of that too. I paid for everything. Tony Spires directed it. I had a great DP Jamaal Williams, and had another great producer Rick Erving… our cast there’s 35 people in the movie.
Monique Ranae: Oh wow. That’s a lot!
BT Kingsley: That’s a huge cast for an independent feature.
Monique Ranae: You went over a few people on the production team but who’s a part of the cast?
BT Kingsley: Woo! Um, Alright Uh…So Nate Jackson is in it. Bianca Siavoshy is in it. She plays the lead. Don DC Curry is in it. He plays my uncle. Tajareen Marin is in it. She plays my sister. And there’s a nice string of actors and actresses in it. Lourdes Gonzales is in it…. Sherelle Patrice, Norman Towns, Candicde Marie Bennett. Jessica Obilom this is a really good question because there so many people with value. Jessica Watkins, Ben Edlin, Clayton Thomas, DC Ervin, Chinedu Unaka, Angelina Spicer, Jay Hollingsworth, Aarona Lopez… There are a lot of people in this movie. I really wanted to reach out to the talented people around me that I knew and some that I didn’t know. So I held two auditions. I reached out to a string of comics that I knew to get cameos. It’s a really, really meaty cast. That’s not normal. For an independent movie you normally do a few people.
Monique Ranae: How long did it take to shoot the project?
BT Kingsley: We’ve been shooting this movie since June. It took us 10 months to shoot it. 10 months and 18 days. We finished April 7th or so. Super daunting task but I’m super excited about it. I mean, the movie is hilarious! Right? And then there are really great moments. It’s a great story. Like there’s twists and turns and things you didn’t expect to happen in a romantic comedy. So shout out to the writers. (laughs) then there’s performances that are gonna’ shine. It’s really good. I’m excited about the whole process. Getting it put together and finishing it out and seeing what it is and doing the next one. I’m going to be in the business of selling movies.
Monique Ranae: So you just answered my next question; which was, “What is your ultimate goal?” So, Your Ultimate goal is to be in the business of selling movies?
BT Kingsley: I look up to… I got into comedy… I know I always wanted to do whatever Eddie Murphy did, Right? And I understood the performance aspect of it but the only child in me is kinda independent and I don’t like to hear “no”. So in the essence to trying to avoid “no” you create on your own. If I write a TV show Pilot, I have to go and hope TV picks it up. With a short, you can’t exactly sell them so somebody has to come in and say, “We want to make this a full length feature” and invest money. With a feature people are always looking for content. You randomly scroll though Netfilx and be like “When did this movie come out?” and there’s some good stuff in there. You know BET is known for randomly showing all kinds of movies you’ve never seen before. You be like “Barbecue?” it has all these people in it and its really, really good. My goal was always… like; I look up to Keenan Ivory Wayans and the Robert Townsend and even Tyler Perry in the aspects of creating it and putting it out. And I wanted the daunting task of having an answer for everything and paying for everything so I can make the final decision. I didn’t want to do a ‘Kickstarter’; I didn’t want to do ‘indiegogo’. No shade to anybody else but if I ask the people that support me to help me fund it… then who do I sell it to, the same people? That seems backwards to me. “Hey y’all! Help me make this movie.” “Woo! That was great y’all helped me make a movie!” “Alright everybody, buy the movie!”
Monique Ranae: (Laughs)
BT Kingsley: You know what I mean? I just couldn’t see myself doing that. I don’t know too many people are doing full length features.
Monique Ranae: Yeah, in our generation of people making moves, I only know of a couple people doing it. Like, literally you and somebody else… That I know personally.
BT Kingsley: Initially ‘She Wins’ was an idea that I had slated and had meetings around the city for and I had talks on it not for a web series but as a web episodic. Like ten 15 minute episodes. You know how you binge watch Orange if the new black or house of cards? Something like that but shorter and nobody was trying to do that because it didn’t exist yet. People were like, “No. People like watching a 4 minute YouTube video.” But in 3-4 minutes you can’t develop a story or get people to care about these characters. People thought TV was dead. “Nobody‘s watching scripted TV…” Then ‘Empire’ comes on and people can’t wait to watch Empire (laughs). So, people still care about content.
Monique Ranae: A lot of people have really gotten sick of reality TV thing and the demand for writers and content for Scripted TV has definitely gotten higher in the past year now So we will see more good content.
BT Kinsley: I want she wins to be Hollywood shuffle. You look at it a few years from now and see all of these people and be like “Yooo…” you ever look at the cast of Boomerang and be like, “Whoa!!”
Monique Ranae: Right!!
BT Kingsley: That’s what I wanted for She wins. To create that environment for talented people I know. The duality of ‘She Wins’ was attributed to the talented females on the project. No casting couches. You don’t gotta sleep with me. If she had talents that I knew would excel… put her in there! I’ve always had this affinity for female comics it’s always been a big brother thing, because I see what they deal with. If you have a great work ethic, come in for auditions. It’s not all on me. If Tony loves you (cause he has to direct ), If she had a great work ethic, come in for auditions. if he loves you I loves you lets go. But this is a learning experience, this ain’t no Instagram video. We aren’t gonna be here for 2 hours. We gotta get close ups, we gotta get the lighting right and make sure you look beautiful; we gotta get the right emotions out of you. This isn’t going to be quick. After we got past that learning curve, we started getting some incredible performances.
BT Kingsley: Lourdes Gonzalez is one of the main characters. She has like 70, 000 vine followers, she’s on Foxxhole Radio… I wanted everybody to be in the same working space of where I am. You may not know them just yet…but you will! [Continued in next issue]
“Check in Next month for the rest of this interview.
We talk more about film, what inspires his style, and more!” –Monique Ranae
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