Brian J. Smith opened up about his sexuality for the first time publicly this week while reflecting on his Texas childhood in a candid new interview.
Smith, best known as Will Gorski on Netflix’s “Sense8,” gets playfully sexy on the cover of December’s Attitude magazine, peeling off his shirt and flexing his biceps in a steamy photo series by Harol Baez. The 38-year-old also spoke at length about his Lone Star State upbringing, and told the publication he is gay.
The road to living authentically, Smith explained, was a rocky one.
“At school I really couldn’t fit in anywhere,” he said. “Forget about any LGBTQ union or groups. There was absolutely nothing. I was completely alone. I heard all the names: pussy, faggot.”
He continued, “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.”
Like many LGBTQ people, Smith found solace in the performing arts, where he was able to disappear into a character.
“On stage, [my classmates] paid attention to me, and they saw that I had something,” he said. “That’s when I didn’t feel alone.”
Still, Smith didn’t reveal his sexuality to his parents until he was 30, only to be surprised when his family embraced him wholeheartedly.
“They said they were just waiting for me to say something. They were a lot more advanced than I gave them credit for,” he said. “I think that’s when I became OK with it, too. Just in terms of being, ‘Oh that’s the world, it’s not as dangerous as I thought it was.’”
Though “Sense8” was canceled in 2017, Smith has gone on to further success in Hollywood. The Juilliard-trained actor can currently be seen on USA’s “Treadstone.” He also stars on the British series “World on Fire” as Webster O’Connor, a gay American doctor based in Paris.
As to the advice he’d now impart on his adolescent self, Smith said, “I just would hug him and say ‘It’s OK.’ 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.’”
When his interview went live Thursday, Smith wrote on Instagram, “The folks at [Attitude] 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!”
Read the full Attitude magazine interview here.