People say trans is the new gay, just like gay was once considered the new Black. However you categorize the marginalized or disenfranchised, you have to also be sure to celebrate the strides the individuals in these communities make. Over the last few years we have seen transgender actresses and celebrities like Laverne Cox, Amiya Scott, B. Scott, and Janet Mock have been instrumental in opening up opportunities for other trans people.
Well now we can add actor, Brian Michael Smith, to that roster as he recently came out as a transgender man, shortly after his most recent role as a secretly trans man cop in the latest episode of OWN’s Queen Sugar!
Check out his interview with NBC News’ writer, Tiq Milan below!
via NBC News
On Wednesday, viewers of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) show got to watch the debut of Toine Wilkins, a transgender police officer and high school friend of the show’s principle character, Ralph Angel. Actor Brian Michael Smith, who used this character as his vehicle to come out as transgender, has been acting professionally for the last five years and hadn’t disclosed his gender identity until this moment.
Smith has appeared on “Girls,” “Blue Bloods,” “Law and Order” and in a Toyota commercial as cisgender (non-transgender) male characters. Many transgender actors in Hollywood have been pushing for trans folks to also be cast in non-trans roles, and Smith sets the example that they can do just that — and do it well.
NBC Out contributor and transgender advocate Tiq Milan had a chance to chat with Smith about his budding acting career, his coming out and being a model of possibility.
Do you consider this your big debut?
Brian Michael Smith: In a lot of ways I do. I’ve had really good experiences with my career so far. I started training professionally about six years ago, really learning the craft and being really dedicated to making a profession out of my desire to act, and I feel like this is one of the first roles that is really hitting my interests as an artist and as a person.
Tell us a bit about your acting career thus far.
I’ve been acting since I was a child doing church plays and stuff like that. When I got to high school and college, I was more involved in athletics then I was in acting. At that time, I was trying to figure out what my identity was and roles became more gendered, it was a little bit more challenging for me to stay with the acting. I started to learn more behind the scenes stuff and was working with young people for two or three years. Then I decided that I had to move to New York or LA and really make a go out of this in any way, shape or form. Then in 2011, I was teaching filmmaking and telling these young kids to pursue their dreams but I wasn’t doing the same thing. I couldn’t do that. I had to practice what I preached.
I started out by trying to get a series of background roles when I moved to New York in 2008. It blew my mind how they would just be filming in the streets. I was walking home from work one day, and I had to walk through a film set to get my house, and I thought, “This is amazing. This is what I came here to do.” I asked the people on set a bunch of questions: How to do background work? How to do this or that. I thought it would be really good to learn how to be on set by doing background work. So while I was taking classes, I had the opportunity to be on sets watch the interactions between the directors and the actors and pick up what I could there. As I got more training, I worked my way up the food chain over the last few years. I learned more and more about the industry and was able to attract better roles. So I’ve been doing TV since 2012.