Brian J. Smith is another one of our next generation actors on the rise. Brian's career began almost immediately after earning his B.F.A. at Juilliard when he was quickly cast in diverse roles on and off-Broadway in "Come Back, Little Sheba;" "Good Boys and True," and "Three Changes" alongside Dylan McDermott and Maura Tierney. Brian then made the leap from the stage to the screen, appearing as one of the leads on the MGM series "Stargate Universe" for the SyFy Network.
Brian also starred opposite Peter Gallagher in the drama "The War Boys," landed a lead role in the independent thriller "Red Hook," and returned to the big screen in the highly anticipated "Murder on the Orient Express." Most recently Brian recurred on CW’s "Gossip Girl" and starred in the SyFy original film "Red Faction: Origins." His next projects include the mini-series "Coma" from producer Tony Scott and "Warehouse 13" for SyFy. Brian's also guest-starred on the Emmy Award-winning series, "Law & Order."
Brian is currently appearing in Manhattan Theatre Club's production of David Auburn's "The Columinist" starring John Lithgow at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre in NYC (261 West 47th Street, between Broadway & 8th Avenue) through June 17. Click here for tickets and for more on the show visit http://thecolumnistbroadway.com!
For more on Brian be sure to follow him on Twitter!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Jim Carey was my idol as a kid. I would run around the house going "alllll righty then", just being a big goof ball. Jerry Lewis too. I was shy but in need of attention. Not much has changed! Well now I'm all serious and went to drama school and all that. I think I was probably a better actor when I was a kid, before the fear of being good at it came into the picture.
2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Cherry Jones. I saw her in Doubt during a Christmas Eve performance, and I just walked around the streets in the snow for hours afterwards, stunned. I knew that I wanted to affect people one day the same way she had affected me, even if only once. I'll never forget the way she delivered the very last line of that play. Still gives me chills.
3. What attracted you to "The Columnist"? What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? I knew right away I was reading one of the best plays I had read in a long time. Even from the first scene, between "Andrei" and "Joe," I was aware of how layered the writing was. And then scene after scene went by and I didn't want it to end. And it’s also really, really funny. I was already a huge fan of David Auburn's, and some of the best theatre I've seen in New York has been directed by Dan Sullivan, and of course the prospect of acting with John Lithgow just sealed the deal.
The sense I get so far is that audiences are having one of those theatre experiences where they're very moved but they don't know why, it's hard to pin down. I love that. Maybe it's because it evokes the 60s so well, and that decade really hasn't healed yet.
4. What do you identify most with about your character "Andrei"? When it comes to "Andrei" it's got more to do with being in love than identifying. I'm kind of obsessed with him. I'll be buying milk or talking to someone on the phone and something will drop in, a moment or something that he says and I'll just get it. So in a way it's like being in love. I'm always thinking about this person, always worried about him, always trying to know more. I have a feeling that the morning after the last performance I'll wake up and go "oh crap, THAT'S what he's doing on that line!" Maybe I'm over thinking it but I know I'll never know him completely. So each night is very much an exploration rather than a finished performance, and it's the first time I've worked this way.
5. This is the second MTC show you've starred in. What do you like best about working with Manhattan Theatre Club? It's a great group of people and my gosh they've been nice to me. Come Back Little Sheba was a gift to work on, especially for someone who had recently graduated from drama school. I have great memories from that show and it’s kind of a mind trip to walk down those halls and stand on that stage again. I’m even sitting in the same spot in the dressing room! The crew is amazing too and some of the same guys are still working there. So in a way it feels like coming home. I love the neighborhood too. I highly recommend Jing over on 9th avenue - get the Manhattan roll!
6. What is your favorite part of the rehearsal/preview period in a show? Where is your favorite place to rehearse on your own? My favorite part is when the audience shows up. We've learned a lot about the show from preview audiences, like what moments are landing, which moments need to be truncated, or which laughs we can rely on. Also just knowing that 650 people are there hearing the story for the first time changes the quality of what you're doing, and you realize that a big part your job is to not let them get too ahead of the moments. You can feel when you're all in sync and it's addicting.
My favorite place to rehearse on my own is actually in bed. I can free associate there and try out really bizarre thoughts without censoring them. It's a relaxing place to daydream. Oddly enough a lot of ideas come to me on the subway too. I'll see someone who reminds me of Andrei or I'll get lucky and hear someone with a great Russian accent.
7. You have been fortunate to work in theatre, film, and television. What do you like most about each medium? Having the audience there in the room with you is the great part of doing theatre. And everyone is in the same moment together, so your acting partner has the same stakes as you do. On a TV or film set when they cover your part of the scene the focus is entirely on you - 100 people standing around watching only you hoping you don't screw up so they can go have lunch. I definitely prefer the freedom you get being onstage, with nothing in between you and your partner and the play and the audience.
8. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? That I'm a lot tougher than I thought. And braver.
9. What's the best advice you've ever received? "What other people think of you is none of your business."
10. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? The cast of Top Chef Masters cooking me a meal.
11. Favorite way to spend your day off? Napping, reading, time with my dog and a double yoga session.
12. Favorite way to stay in shape? I used to do Cross Fit when we were shooting SGU, then I did p90x, then I did Pilates and now I do nothing but yoga and running. Ashtanga, Vinyassa, Bikram, Iyengar, I love it all.
13. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Russia.