The Canadian actor joined season 2 of the HBO series as a potentially shady aquarium employee who works with Shailene Woodley's character

By Dana Rose Falcone
June 21, 2019 01:27 PM

The Monterey Five are back, but season 2 of Big Little Lies also introduced some new faces in the California beach town. Among them is Douglas Smith, who plays Jane’s (Shailene Woodley) slightly suspicious co-worker Corey Brockfield at the aquarium.

“You’re not sure what his motives are,” Smith, 33, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, on stands now.

Even though Jane already rejected Corey’s romantic advances (if you can call a “practice date” that) once this season, Smith says, “They continue to interact because of the nature of how they’re both next to each other a lot. That sort of evolves in a way that I can’t really say too much more about.”

Smith admits it’s been difficult to guard the secrets of Big Little Lies’ second season, but he’s picked up tips from Woodley about keeping his lips sealed.

“I just really like talking freely about what you worked on, so I’m not great at doing this kind of stuff,” the actor says. “I’ve watched or listened to how Shay answers questions, and I’m really impressed with how good she is at weaving that line. My hat is off to her.”

Big Little Lies
Shailene Woodley and Douglas Smith on Big Little Lies.
| Credit: HBO

The Big Love alum knew Woodley, 27, and costar Zoë Kravitz before he landed the role on the current HBO series — and suspects they helped him score the gig.

“I got an email for the casting director asking if I was interested. It was kind of weird. For such a big show, usually you have a really arduous audition process,” Smith says. “I knew Shailene beforehand. We almost worked together on a film a couple years ago that I ended up doing with Zoë instead. I think Shailene read the role and thought I was similar to the character. I think she told them that, but I’m not totally positive.”

Douglas Smith
Credit: Monica Schipper/FilmMagic

The Canada native also had familiarity with another one of the other Monterey moms: Nicole Kidman.

“I actually had a poster of Nicole Kidman when I started getting into acting,” he says. “I was a really big fan of a lot of her work. I didn’t tell her that. I didn’t want to be weird. Just keep it together, stay cool. I was lucky enough to work with her a bit and she was very, very nice.”

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Smith transitioned from being a high school jock on the wrestling and cross-country running teams to “a cinema-obsessed kid” after seeing Annette Bening in American Beauty. From there, he started taking acting classes and decided to give himself one year after graduating high school to make it in Hollywood. That’s when Smith landed Big Love and “got off to the races,” he says.

  • For more on Douglas Smith, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on stands now
7/1/2019 Cover Featuring Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood on the cover of PEOPLE
| Credit: Randee St. Nicholas

He’s continued to pile up acting credits with horror films like Ouija and The Bye Bye Man, but it’s Big Little Lies that’s catapulted his recognizability.

“I was at Jazz Fest in New Orleans at the end of April and I got stopped like 20 times in a day just from people recognizing my one little moment in Big Little Lies teaser trailer,” says Smith, who’s currently filming the second installment of The Alienist in Hungary. “That seemed bananas to me. I’m in it for like two seconds. Not even two seconds, half a second. That blew me away as to the reach that this show has.”

Big Little Lies airs Sundays on HBO at 9 p.m. ET.