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The Get Down’s Tory Devon Smith Talks Disco Favorites and Playing a Hip Hop Gangster

The Get Down’s Tory Devon Smith Talks Disco Favorites and Playing a Hip Hop Gangster

Tory Devon Smith
Photography by Ryan West

The out actor praises the Netflix series for showing how important gay culture was to the birth of hip hop in the 1970s.

Tory Devon Smith admits to growing up a kid out of time.

"I was a '70s kid living in the '90s," he tells Out. "I listened to Parliament, Donna Summer--Karen Carpenter and The Bee Gees."

No wonder the openly queer actor found a part in Netflix's The Get Down. Directed by Baz Luhrman, the visually and musically stunning series is a love letter to the gritty birth of hip hop during the 1970s in the Bronx. Smith plays Little Wolf, a recurring gangster and enforcer.

"He's outrageous. He's off-kilter. Nothing is too outrageous for this guy," Smith tells Out. "He's considered a villain, but he's a villain you will enjoy."

As an out actor on the cast, Smith feels relieved that The Get Down acknowledges how important the queer community was in the early careers of disco and hip hop artists.

"I'm so happy the show touched upon the importance of gay history," he says. "What does Samantha say in Sex and the City? 'First come the gays, then the girls, then the industry.' That's exactly what it was. Gay culture then was at the forefront of what was new and what was innovative."

However, The Get Down stays true to both past--and present--in depicting the homophobia festering inside hip hop.

"The villain characters all call each other 'faggot,' and that's still playing out in hip hop day," Smith says. "Obviously, there's a little more acceptance of queer artists, but that urge to be overtly masculine--that's always there."

Smith hopes to transform his time on The Get Down into more TV and Broadway roles, ones that really "fuel my soul."

"I want roles where I overcome challenges," he says. "I want to be Sophie in Sophie's Choice, you know? I love series and films that take the human condition and break it down and watch people overcome it."

In the meantime, he's catching up on his binge-watching just like his fans. He's currently working through Netflix's '80s homage, Stranger Things. When pointing how both Stranger Things and The Get Down work so hard to recapture the magic of a decade, he wholeheartedly agrees.

"Both shows take us on a journey back in time with this fantastically whimsical approach," he says. "It's so amazing to be a part of it."

The Get Down is available to stream now on Netflix.

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