Sense8 star Brian J. Smith might be best known for appearing in the since-cancelled Netflix show’s pansexual orgies, but he hasn’t opened up about his own sexuality until now. Smith has publicly come out in a cover story for Attitude, talking about the hardship of growing up queer in Texas.
“I was terrified,” he tells the magazine. “At school I really couldn’t fit in anywhere. I wasn’t a jock or a nerd. “Forget about any [LGBTQ+] union or groups. There was absolutely nothing. I was completely alone. I heard all the names: pussy, faggot.”
Smith says he was never able to fully be himself, instead “constantly having to check [himself] and make sure [he] wasn’t looking at someone too long or making someone feel uncomfortable.” He was extremely careful about sharing his identity, something he said “still reverberates” to this day.
“A lot of my work is about that,” Smith says. “The things that move me as an actor are those echoes that come up.”
Smith says that performing helped him feel less alone, as did the support from his family when he came out to them. Their reaction was “wonderful,” he recalls.” “They said they were just waiting for me to say something,” Smith says. “They were a lot more advanced than I gave them credit for.”
That familial acceptance helped Smith become more comfortable in his own skin, something he felt again while filming Sense8, which was canceled in 2017 after two seasons but eventually returned with a special finale episode.
“I remember being so relaxed,” Smith says of shooting the series. “I thought, ‘Finally, I can just be myself, I don’t have to put on airs for any of these people.’”
Now older and wiser, Smith had some words of advice for his younger self: “I just would hug him and say ‘It’s OK. What that kid needed was somebody to pick him up and say, ‘You’re perfect as you are, it’s OK.’”
Smith can currently be seen on USA's Treadstone.