Actor Brian J. Smith, who most of us discovered in the Netflix series Sense8, comes out in the new issue of Attitude Magazine and shares that he found refuge in acting during a rough childhood in Texas.
In a candid and revealing interview, Smith says that he felt – like many young LGBTQ kids – that he “could never be who I was.”
“I was constantly having to check myself and make sure I wasn’t looking at someone too long or making someone feel uncomfortable,” says the 38-year-old actor. “I had to be very, very careful about telling the people the truth about myself.”
Back in 1980s rural Texas, Smith didn’t feel there were any support systems for him as a young gay.
“Forget about any LGBTQ union or groups – there was absolutely nothing,” said Smith, adding that he “heard all the names: p*ssy, f*ggot.”
But once he discovered acting, the stage became a refuge where he could “disappear” and become someone else.
Smith explains that most of his classmates in school “probably thought I was an absolute idiot, a nerd,” but when he was on stage “they paid attention to me, and they saw that I had something.”
“And that’s when I didn’t feel alone.”
Acting would take center stage in Smith’s life leading him to make his Broadway debut in 2008 in Come Back, Little Sheba. He scored Tony and Drama Desk nominations for his performance as ‘The Gentleman Caller’ in the acclaimed 2013 revival of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie starring out actors Zachary Quinto and Cherry Jones.
But it was his role as Chicago police officer ‘Will Gorski’ in the LGBTQ-inclusive Netflix series Sense8 that really put Smith in the global spotlight.
Even though the show only lasted two seasons, it developed a loyal following that embraced all of the series’ stars including Smith.
The show also became his introduction to leading-man action roles.
He didn’t come out to his parents until he was 30, but describes their reaction as “wonderful.” It turned out that, like many kids coming out to their parents, mom and dad knew already and “were just waiting for me to say something.”
On reflection, Smith admits, “They were a lot more advanced than I gave them credit for.”
“I think that’s when I became OK with it, too,” says Smith. “Just in terms of being, ‘Oh that’s the world, it’s not as dangerous as I thought it was.’”
In hindsight, thinking back to his early years in small-town Texas, Smith realizes he was fine all the time. He just needed to hear it.
“There weren’t enough people there to say to me: ‘You don’t need to be someone different, you don’t need to change who you are,’” he tells Attitude. “What that kid needed was somebody to pick him up and say, ‘You’re perfect as you are, it’s OK.’”
Check out more of Smith’s interview plus his ‘revealing’ photoshoot with Attitude here.
Smith shared the news of his Attitude cover story via Instagram writing, “Good morning, world. The folks at @attitudemag reached out and I knew it was time. Hoping there’s other people out there like me (and not like me!) who can relate. Nothin but love! Now let’s go party.”
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Good morning, world. The folks at @attitudemag reached out and I knew it was time. Hoping there’s other people out there like me (and not like me!) who can relate. Nothin but love! Now let’s go party. Photography: @harolbaezstudio Interview: @cliffjoannou Styling: @josephkocharian Location: @thepierreny Grooming: @melissa.dezarate