"I had to be very, very careful about telling people the truth about myself," Brian J. Smith said

By Dave Quinn
November 07, 2019 08:30 PM
Credit: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

Brian J. Smith, the actor known for his role in Netflix’s Sense8 and USA’s Jason Bourne spin-off series Treadstone, is opening up about his sexuality.

In the cover story for Attitude‘s December issue, the Tony-nominated star, 38, comes out as gay while discussing the hardships of growing up closed in suburban Texas.

“I was terrified. At school I really couldn’t fit in anywhere. I wasn’t a jock or a nerd,” he told the magazine. “Forget about any [LGBTQ+] union or groups. There was absolutely nothing. I was completely alone. I heard all the names: p—-, f—–.”

“I could never be who I was,” he added. “I was constantly having to check myself and make sure I wasn’t looking at someone too long or making someone feel uncomfortable.”

For Smith, acting became a place where he could escape those tough feelings.

He got involved in his high school theater productions. “In front of an audience, I disappeared and became someone else,” Smith told Attitude. “I had 600 students at school, all of whom probably thought I was an absolute idiot, a nerd. [But] on stage, they paid attention to me, and they saw that I had something. And that’s when I didn’t feel alone.”

Over time, Smith pursued that passion, which became a full-blown acting career.

In Sense8, his breakout project, Smith played a pansexual character. “I remember being so relaxed,” Smith recalled of the show, which was cancelled in 2017 after two seasons (but eventually returned with a special finale movie). “I thought, ‘Finally, I can just be myself, I don’t have to put on airs for any of these people.’ “

Although he’s in a better place now, having come out to his family back in 2011, Smith admitted to Attitude that his childhood pain is still something he channels into his work.

“I had to be very, very careful about telling people the truth about myself,” Smith said. “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.”