Bentley Green spent 11 months in Chicago filming a supporting role in the new AMC series “61st Street.” But the most memorable moment in the Dallas native’s acting career might have been a single-day shoot in Los Angeles.
That day, Green played a younger version of basketball superstar LeBron James in a Crypto.com commercial that debuted during Super Bowl LVI in February.
Veteran commercial director Calmatic knew Green from his recurring role in the FX series “Snowfall” and sought him out in part because of a facial resemblance to James. Green being a huge basketball fan, and specifically a LeBron fan, was merely a bonus.
“LeBron is a person I’ve always looked up to. Getting to work with him and get advice from him was a dream come true,” Green said during the recent South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin. “The response has been overwhelming.”
Of course, you can’t see Green’s actual face in the 30-second spot, as a visual-effects team superimposed the features of a teenage James onto Green’s body to create the effect of the star talking to his younger self on a set built to resemble his childhood bedroom in Ohio.
You can see plenty of Green’s face, however, in the role of a teenager trying to avoid the violence and turmoil of inner-city Chicago in “61st Street,” which debuts April 10 on the AMC+ streaming service.
Green plays the younger brother of a track star (Tosin Cole) who becomes a suspect following a deadly drug bust, which leads to a public defender (Courtney B. Vance) trying to prove his innocence amid a maze of police corruption and legal bias.
“He’s a young man trying to figure himself out. He has an older brother who does everything the right way, by the book, and he’s at that phase where he’s the problem child. He has ambitions and opportunities to make changes,” Green said. “Being a young Black man, we all find a sense of camaraderie as far as being out in the world and surviving. It showed me a new perspective.”
The series, produced by actor Michael B. Jordan and also starring Oscar nominee Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard), has been in development for six years. Green has been attached since about 2019.
It’s been 15 years since Green appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” as a child hip-hop prodigy, which led to subsequent viral fame. He began working steadily as an actor in 2015, landing prominent roles in several series and the lead in a locally-made and recently released independent film, Caged Birds.
Green, now 21, attended DeSoto High School during his freshman year before leaving for Los Angeles, where he was homeschooled between acting jobs. Now based in California, he still has family in the Dallas area.
“Everything that’s happened has prepped me for these types of moments,” Green said. “Going viral early on taught me how to take advantage of opportunities as a performer.”
Green has known British actor Cole (“Doctor Who”), since the two actors were cast as siblings several years ago in the unaired, original pilot episode of the Showtime drama “The Chi.”
Although filming an entire 15-episode season of “61st Street” over 11 months was daunting, Green said the experience taught him valuable lessons.
“I felt a lot of myself while filming this project, learning so many things about myself that I didn’t know. I’ve definitely been able to put a lot of things in my bag for the future,” he said. “It’s a different look for me as an actor, as far as my range. I’m super excited for everyone to see it.”
He plans to return to music, too, after he wrote about 30 new songs while working in Chicago that he hopes to record soon.
Meanwhile, as he gains fame and prominence in the Hollywood landscape, Green hopes his success can be an inspiration to youngsters back home with similar dreams.
“I’m a Dallas kid to the core. Everything I do is for the city,” he said. “I want to be a pioneer in so many different avenues. Everything is attainable if you believe it.”
Perhaps he’s simply heeding the words of wisdom that James gave him in the commercial: “If you wanna make history, you gotta call your own shots.”