“I was terrified,” actor Brian J. Smith tells Attitude in an exclusive new interview. “At school I really couldn’t fit in anywhere. I wasn’t a jock or a nerd.”
Smith, known for his roles in Sense8 and the new Bourne Saga USA series, Treadstone, comes out as gay in the U.K. magazine cover story. He reflects on growing up in Allen, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, where he says there were no support groups for LGBTQ people: “There was absolutely nothing. I was completely alone. I heard all the names: pussy, faggot.”
“I 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,” he explains. “I had to be very, very careful about telling people the truth about myself. It still reverberates. A lot of my work is about that. The things that move me as an actor are those echoes that come up.”
Smith appeared on Gossip Girl and The Good Wife, and he notably played gay opposite Benjamin Walker in the 2009 film The War Boys. While he had played gay before, he tells Attitude he didn’t feel fully comfortable with his sexuality until filming the cult Netflix series Sense8.
Although it had a rabid fanbase, the series was canceled after two seasons, and the characters were given a send-off in a two-hour movie finale, Sense8: Together Until the End.
“I remember being so relaxed,” Smith says of filming Sense8. “I thought, ‘Finally, I can just be myself, I don’t have to put on airs for any of these people.’”
Looking back on his childhood, Smith wishes there had been more people around to tell him he was “perfect” just as he is:
“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.’ What that kid needed was somebody to pick him up and say, ‘You’re perfect as you are, it’s OK.’”