This past January saw the announcement of numerous cast members who will feature in Stargate Universe
, the third television series based on the 1994 hit film! Among the names was 27-year-old Brian J. Smith
, selected to play Lieutenant Matthew Scott in the new show.
GateWorld's David Read got on the telephone with Brian for a unique interview. Our mission was not to get any insider scoop on the upcoming TV series, but to get to know the actor before he gets to know his character. The result is an interesting insight into one of Stargate's future faces.
Brian tells us about growing up in Texas, living in the Big Apple, and the excitement of getting cast in Universe
. We also discuss fans loyal to Stargate Atlantis
, and get his feelings about working with the likes of Robert Carlyle.
GateWorld's interview with Brian J. Smith runs about 35 minutes. Listen online at your leisure, download it to your MP3 player, or subscribe now to the iTunes podcast
! The full interview is also transcribed below.
GateWorld: So you are in New York right now!
Brian J. Smith In New York, yeah. I've been here for five and a half years. I moved up here to start school up at Julliard. That was four years ago. Graduated about a year and a half ago and it's been insane. This place is crazy.
I grew up in Texas. We had three acres of land and the miniature horses and the ATVs and mini-bikes and riding lawnmowers. Before you know it I'm living in the Big Apple. It just doesn't make any sense.
GW: I didn't think anyone in Texas had under ten acres of land. I grew up on two and a half and I'm from St. Louis!
BS: Yeah! Well we actually grew up in a part -- it's just north of Dallas, a place called Lucas. It was probably about 15 minutes away from a lake. Of course large parts of Dallas now are very, very suburban. Even more so since I grew up there. You would just watch whole fields just get eaten up with housing development.
GW: Don't you hate that? Don't you feel like you're cutting out a part of your soul?
BS: Yeah, it's absolutely depressing. Three acres was cool to have. Everyone around us had land and it was a really cool way to live. It was nice.
GW: Did you always want to be an actor and move to New York?
BS: I don't know, I just wanted to do something cool. I loved movies when I was a kid. Really more than anything I think when I was in High School I just wanted to be a part of a group -- part of something. I didn't really fit into any of the roving cliques. There was this crazy theatre group. They always seem to get along. [I thought] It'd just be neat.
I auditioned for a show when I was a sophomore in High School and got in. I'm the kind of person, I don't just want to do something. I kind of want to do it really well. I started reading up on Stanislavski. I didn't know how to act so I just figured, "There's got to be a book out there that tells you how to do it."
Smith stars opposite Zoe Kazan and Law and Order's S. Epatha Merkerson in "Come Back, Little Sheba."
I mean, someone teaches you how to throw a football. Someone teaches you how to skate. There's got to be some kind of book out there, or a coach, that teaches you how to act well.
So I found this book by Stanislavski, "To the Actor." That really set off a fascination I had with good acting technique. I think it started in High School. I became really fascinated with how actors work, and how good acting happens. That was something that became kind of an obsession with me, I think, when I was in High School.
GW: Wow. OK. How long ago was "Come Back, Little Sheba?"
BS: "Come Back, Little Sheba" was exactly a year ago. That was the past winter. I got out of school, did an off-Broadway show, then I did two independent films in a row, and then I came back from New Mexico where I was shooting this film, "War Boys." Kevin Anderson and Zoe Kazan. That was great. It was a year ago. It was a really magical time.
GW: I just got word that you were on Law and Order.
BS: Yeah! Actually I just shot it a week ago for three days. Oh, God, I am so excited about this character I can't even tell you.
GW: David Sherman. Or Derek Sherman!
BS: Yeah, Derek Sherman! That's right. Where'd you get that from?
GW: Uh, [reads] "I just got an email from a gal in the Law and Order production office with info on his upcoming guest spot he just filmed. Episode, 'Crime Busters,' Character, 'David Sherman.' 'Derek Sherman!' What is it with me??
We know everything, Brian! Just get used to it. We got forwarded that from the production office.
BS: Oh, that's awesome. That's awesome. I think it's going to be a cool thing because that's going to air probably in March. We don't have the exact air dates yet. they're actually still filming the episode. I think they wrap on it today or tomorrow. I think that's going to be a really cool thing for people to see me do because he could not be more opposite from Lieutenant Matthew Scott. He's incredibly tortured, very bad character. So fun to play.
GW: OK great. Well we'll definitely have to take a look at that. I've been reading online, and people have associated you with phrases like, "The best talent to come out since 'when,'" or "When he hits the big time I'll remember Brian Smith because I saw him when he did 'this.'"
Brian J. Smith opposite actor Christopher Abbott.
BS: Are you serious? God.
GW: I have not kept it a secret that I think that Stargate needs a reinfusion of really good acting. Not just faces, but really good actors. So I think it's important that we get people in who can really mop up the floor.
BS: Well I hope the proof is in the pudding! Every project you start -- and it doesn't matter -- I'm serious, I think any actor will confirm this. It doesn't matter whether you're doing a McDonald's commercial or off-off-off Broadway play, or a Broadway play, or a TV series.
I think you start every single project with an overwhelming sense -- maybe this is just me, I don't know -- an overwhelming sense of not fear, but it's an emotion that's very similar to fear. It feeds you and it also intimidates you at the same time.
I think some of that, too, is this idea is starting to bubble up. You're starting to become passionate about the character. I think the more you become passionate about the project the more the anxiety rises because you want to meet the level of the potential that's there. At least that you feel or that you sense in the character.
GW: Well that's got to be terrifying when you receive a script to ask yourself "Do I have what it takes to service this character to the potential that I see on the script?" I can't imagine going through something like that! At some point you just have to give it up to whatever power and say "I can do this. That's why they hired me."
BS: Yeah! Well the best way to begin is just to begin. You show up on set the first day and you shoot a scene. You do a set up, you do your coverage, their coverage. You go bit by bit, moment to moment, scene by scene, episode by episode, and it just builds on itself.
That's the great thing about TV and film. It allows you to work in small little chunks. You don't have to present the whole thing in perfection the first time. You can loosen up. You can suck for a couple takes. [Laughter]
Ideally you don't want to suck at all, and you hope they don't use those sucky takes in the editing room, but you've got the opportunity to breathe and loosen up a little bit.
" I grew up in Texas. We had three acres of land and the miniature horses and the ATVs and mini-bikes and riding lawnmowers. Before you know it I'm living in the Big Apple. It just doesn't make any sense."
Over the course of three takes you can definitely get into the zone where you're not even thinking about it and something comes out of you, a look or an inflection or a movement or something that you couldn't have planned. And that's what's so cool about TV.
GW: I bet you're really looking forward to that first read-through, then, trying to figure out where you're going to find yourself. Not just on the page but in your room.
BS: And that's always one of my most favorite moments. It's one of the moments when I'm least on myself. You know what I mean? I don't know if that makes any sense. For the first time you're not dealing with something on a page. You're actually in a room with other human begins.
You're starting to see what they look like. You're starting to see ... and I'm talking to the character. He's a little stronger than I thought he was, this Colonel Young. How do I adapt to him? How do I find the best way to influence him or get done what I need to get done with him in my way?
It's such an exciting time because you start getting yourself in relation to other people, and you realize that it's collaborative. The whole project does not hinge on your performance. This is a group and this is a team, and you're part of a team. And that's incredibly freeing and exciting. It's my favorite part of being an actor.