Scott Evans spent a day with EBONY and talked about making the transition to Hollywood as a young Black journalist, working with entertainment show, Access Live, hosting the third season of NBC’s World of Dance and breaking down the stereotypes of the Black experience in Hollywood.
EBONY: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Scott Evans?
EVANS: I am the son of two incredibly strong individuals, particularly the son of a mother who raised me on her own-ish. I am a brother. I am a friend and a confidant. I am an encourager. I am a cheerleader. I am a reflection of the light that has been shown to me in my life, and I happen to now be the co-host of Access Live, formerly known as Access Hollywood and the host for World of Dance. I am an entertainment journalist. I am a tick in the balance toward the representation of young black people on TV.
EBONY: You've experienced so many facets of journalism & broadcast, what was the first experience that made you realize that you wanted to do this as a career?
Evans: It's been a really crazy ride. I started out in the first Gig I ever had that helped me identify that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Stacy Paetz, the courtside reporter at the time for the Indiana Pacers and Fox Sports Network. She booked me on a Gig in the third grade, I played a young Reggie Miller playing against a young Larry Bird for the player intro video, for the Indiana Pacers home games. I got out of school for an afternoon, got paid 50 bucks and I thought I had made it
EBONY: So you did the unthinkable, you left college & move to Los Angeles, how'd the family take the decision? When did the first job in the industry come into play?
Evans: I'll tell you before I left my uncle Scott, the man I'm named after, pulled me aside as I'm loading my car and said: "so you're gonna leave your college education to go pursue a dream?" Then I said, "yeah, I have to, I'm going to try and maybe I won't stay, but I have to try." My Uncle said, "okay, well when you come back, when you come back, you better be famous." And I know he didn't mean it the way that it sounded, but it was the perfect motivation for me because it was like, I have something to prove. I'm not just going out here on a whim. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. I was jobless for weeks, months really. I got a call from Stacy Paetz that said, the Pacers are looking for an encore MC and would I be interested in the job. It was a full circle moment. I had this dream of this first experience in the third grade about working with the Pacers and now I had an opportunity to be on the court with them. I flew back to Indiana for the interview, they hired immediately. At 19, I became the youngest person & first African American to hold the position for the league. I worked at the home games, it was basically live television in front of the largest audience you can imagine is 15,000-16,000 people every night, killed it.
EBONY: You moved back home to Indianapolis from Los Angeles to do what you love, how much of an "aha moment" was that, knowing you left to do the same thing?
Evans: It wasn't this, I have a dream and now everything that I've ever dreamed of is happening to me. There are some severe blows, hard knocks, that I learned along the way and still honestly experience. The thing about your dream is you've never been there, so you don't know what it's going to be like when it starts to unfold. The reality is if you've dreamed it and you are actively pursuing it, you are living it. You have this idea of what your dream will look like once you get there, and then you get to there and you're like, well, this isn't what my dream was, not having ever been there. I've always had to remind myself, that I've never been here before. This is what it looks like. This is what my dream feels like. I consistently have to remind myself of that, but yeah, it's been a crazy journey.
EBONY: How did you eventually found your way home to Los Angeles and Access?
Evans: I actually spent almost four years at Channel One in New York City. I was looking for other gigs and my reel gets to Rob Silverstein, the executive producer of Access Hollywood at that point. I have a conversation with Rob and he's like, what do you want to do? I said, man, to be totally honest with you, I want to work and I want to be a part of a team that wants to work and change things. I want the work that I do to be presented in a way that makes people say, "I never thought about it that way." So I had this conversation with him, he flies me to LA to meet the rest of the leadership of the show. Then crickets for months. That's in February, four months, I hear not a word. It's Tuesday, and I get a call from Rob Silverstein & Robin Radin, the News Director of Access Hollywood. "Hi Scott, we have an exclusive with Taylor Swift on Thursday can you do it?" I said, "Yeah, I can do it. No idea if I can do it." I walked into my Executive Producer's office at Channel One, Angela Hunter and I say "I think I'm going to be sick on Thursday." Angela asks, "Oh, well what do you have?" I respond "an exclusive with Taylor Swift." She agrees & says "Yeah, I think you're going to be sick." Without Angela Hunter giving me the opportunity, I wouldn't have been able to do the interview. The thing that I have learned is that it is better to be your authentic self. So that moment, I decided I'm going to try to do me, develop me and see what happens. She lets me go & do the Taylor Swift interview. The first opportunity with Access Hollywood. Nancy Harrison, the producer at the time, pulls me aside, and she says "I've been doing this a long time and while there is a fair amount we have to work on with you, I have never, ever seen somebody respond to a brand new opportunity the way that you did. Whatever you're doing, whatever you were thinking about right now, don't ever change it." She played a voicemail for me with Taylor and her publicist who said, "I don't know where you found him or who he is, but Taylor will do an interview with him anytime you want it." I didn't even have the job yet. I've worked for access Hollywood ever since.
EBONY: How did you become the World of Dance Host?
Evans: The way the world of dance happened is so crazy. It was just one of those examples of like what God has for you is for you, and you can't mess it up. I had sent tapes in, I had done all this other stuff when they announced the show, I was crushed, when I didn't get it. I saw the show and watched Jenna Dewan, she's a dancer, gorgeous & highly likable. I watched the show & become a fan instantly. They announced that Jenna was gonna do something else for season three, and maybe come back as a mentor. I immediately get on the phone with my agents and told them to submit my information again because I'm out in LA & I'm in the NBC family. 30 minutes later I get an email saying World of Dance still doesn't want a host this year. The night of the American Music Awards, I co-host the red carpet pre-show for Dick Clark Productions, this all happens on accident & gets me a ticket into the show. It was the perfect series of events. Benny Medina and Elaine Goldsmith Thomas, who are the producing partners for a lot of Jennifer Lopez's shows and projects are sitting next to Stevie Mackey, Jennifer's vocal coach, & I. What I didn't know then is that Benny turned to Elaine and said, "why haven't we brought in Scott?" Elaine looked at me, and was like, "he's it!" The next day I get a call from Tommy Crump, Head of Talent for Alternative Programming at NBC who tells me that executives want to talk to me about World of Dance. Elaine says, "tell me why you want to be a part of this?" I tell them "It's my dream and I'm supposed to be doing it. Not only do I so respect the spirit of a dancer and what they go through, but what they put their bodies through because art is just what they are, the sacrifices they make to do it, the bruises and scars that they get to share. I'm just so down." Elaine says "this feels like it's kind of meant to be." Thursday I got a call that said, "hey, we've received a deal memo for you as the new Host of World of Dance."
EBONY: What do you think separates World of Dance from the other dance competition shows?
Evans: I think what really separates World of Dance from any other show, not just the competition shows, but any other show that's on TV right now is the heart, sweat, and tears that the contestants put through in creating these works of art week after week. The same care and commitment that the production team and producing team puts in each of the acts. They really do want every single dance team to succeed, so that you can be the best you can possibly be. They don't call it the "Olympics of dance" for nothing. Another thing that separates this show is that the same energy to succeed is reflected in the judge's comments and critiques every week. Every critique is about the dance team becoming better. There's never been a situation on that stage that I can recall where it's simply "I just didn't really like that, thanks." Jennifer, Derek, and Ne-Yo mean it when they say everything is on the line, not just a million dollars, but the soul of a dancer and they all get it. There's a thing called redemption this season, where two of the highest score and eliminated acts come back and dance head to head to the same song, no break, and the judges have to make a snap decision. You stay or you go, the energy in the room changes instantly. There's a young person that performs on this show who was in tears during their performance, they did things in their performance that's safe to say, they've never done before. And they never were the same dancer after that. That doesn't happen on TV.
EBONY: What are you hoping these contestants are able to discover within themselves during the show?
Evans: What I hope that the contestants on World of Dance are able to tap into, is that confidence & passion. When you are a competitive dancer, you can sometimes get caught up in the eight counts, and making sure, you nail it, but you don't share your emotions. I saw dancers this season come to realize why they dance. It's not just the competition or the notoriety of competing on the biggest dance show in the country. It's an opportunity to really tap into and find for the first time why you dance. Then, of course, a $1 million is on the line too, that's a life-changing amount of money. So, it's an incredible thing to see, and I saw it happen more than once!
EBONY: Scott, what are some of the biggest adversities you've witnessed as an African-American in this industry?
Evans: I'll say, I have noticed that not just with black people or black men, but with people who represent some sort of minority, there is this an expectation of this character that you have to play. If you're the black male, if you are gay, a mother, etc. there's this character you will have to play, that's the place, that you've been boxed in, and you can't operate outside of that. I'm not here for any of that. I am here to be me, and I'm not going to pretend to be anything else. Kit Hoover, the co-host of Access Live said to me on day one, "You are here because you are here. Don't try to be anybody else. Don't feel like you need to be filling a spot that's gone. Don't feel like you've got to pretend or play up anything. This is about you. Maybe even finding for the first time that comfort and owning your own thoughts, your own words, your own perspective." I wish that we were able to spend, more time as young black people, especially aspiring to be in this industry to spend more time developing who we are and our own voice, as opposed to electing a voice that would make someone else more comfortable. So I think we're moving in a space now where we're owning our perspective. We're owning our words. We're seeing that acknowledged in a way that encourages us to do more of it.
EBONY: So do you see that framework of the black experience shifting out of that "crabs in a barrel" mentality?
Evans: When Jay-Z's last album came out, 4:44, I just started looking at black people in a different way. He said something that stuck with me and it's going to sound super superficial, but I just applied it. "What do I look like buying Belvedere when Puff has Ciroc." It just made me think like, we have to stop looking outside of ourselves for validation. We have to stop looking at mainstream media to validate us. I understand representation is a necessary thing and why we need more of it. I have a hard time with the thought that I should be looking to NBC to validate me when I'm unwilling to validate my own brothers & sisters. I go out of my way to make sure that I see us and compliment us. While I don't know if the crabs in a barrel and I personally hate the imagery of that, I don't know if it has changed, but I do know that I am doing something different. I had a beautiful exchange with two black men recently, Michael Strahan and Terry Crews. Those conversations confirmed for me that we have to look at each other and boost each other. We can't feed into this game that there aren't enough opportunities, and somehow it's scarce. We have to fight each other. That's not reality, and if there aren't enough spaces, then we have to strive to be in a position that we can create them.
Catch Scott Evans hosting Season 3 'World of Dance' on Sundays at 8/7c on NBC.