It takes a big pair of orches to walk into ruthless, old school, Greek patriarch Victor Kiriakis' (John Aniston) living room and announce you're gay on NBC Daytime's Days of Our Lives. As Victor's sensitive-but-secure great nephew Sonny, Freddie Smith did just that, and fans of the soap cheered, as DAYS finally introduced a principle gay character for the first time in its over 45-year history.
This wasn't Smith's first time playing a same-sex character on a soap, however. The talented young actor won raves as Marco, the soccer stud who romanced Teddy (Trevor Donovan) on The CW's 90210 last season. I recently caught up with Smith, who tonight is appearing in ACME's Hollywood Dream Role. We chatted about what it's been like playing two high profile gay teen characters, back-to-back on suds. Was the hunky actor ever worried about being typecast in gay roles? His answer just may inspire you.
We also dished about the phenomenal reboot DAYS has undergone, as well as the soap's decision to take a slow and steady approach to exploring Sonny's love life. Is romance on the horizon for Sonny and one of Salem's other young adult guys, or even perhaps a new character? Keep reading to find out what Smith can share.
Daytime Confidential: I'm loving, loving, LOVING, the Days of Our Lives reboot! How exciting has it been to be on set with the show in such a transformative place these past few weeks and months?
Freddie Smith: I'm loving the reboot as well. It was a lot of fun to see the sets being changed and having the former cast members return to the show.
DC: You're playing the first member of a core daytime soap family to be comfortably out of the closet, pretty much at the start of your character's journey. Have you heard from any soap fans who find Sonny's self-assurance comforting?
FS: Yes. I have many tweets and fan mail about how Sonny's journey is inspirational and that feels so amazing for an actor to hear how is work is making a positive impact.
DC: Before you joined the show, fans were clamoring for a pairing between the characters of Will Horton (Chandler Massey) and Chad DiMera (Casey Deidrick). Have the three of you joked about how some fans now want Sonny to bust up "Chill," even though Will and Chad were never a couple?
FS: We are just really excited to see who Sonny's love interest will be. We've all become great friends on and off set, so whether it's Chad, Will, or a new character, it's going to be fun telling this story.
DC: Unlike a lot of gay storylines on soaps, DAYS has moved at a slower pace with Sonny in terms of a romantic storyline. Given that recent gay pairings on soaps have received backlash from some of daytime's more conservative audience members, do you think that's been a smart way to approach Sonny's arc, in terms of potential romantic interests?
FS: Absolutely. Sonny actually has a line in one of the episodes that "Being gay is only a small part of who I am." And that is so true, so I'm happy that the story went slower, so that people can really get to know Sonny as a person and then start to root for him to find love. The past few months I've received tweets about when the romance story is going to start, so I feel people are going to be excited.
DC: Can you tease us with anything that might be coming up for Sonny and Will?
FS: I would if I knew. It's a mystery to me as well. We do become really good friends and we start working on a website together, along with Gabi, Abigail, Chad and Melanie.
DC: Primetime shows like 90210, Grey's Anatomy and even ABC Family programs like Pretty Little Liars, seem to be able to plunge right in with gay stories without fear of backlash, although it often times still occurs. Why do you think daytime is different?
FS: I feel every day people are becoming more comfortable and that is what is amazing about all these shows. They are shedding light into many homes and showing and telling gay storylines. That's why I am so honored to play a part that is making a difference.
DC: It's always a surefire bet to tie newbies on a soap to veterans, to get the audience to like them. This practice has definitely been employed successfully with Sonny. What's it been like working with Judi Evans (Adrienne), Wally Kurth (Justin), Suzanne Rogers (Maggie) and John Aniston (Victor)?
FS: My first few episodes were with Judi and Wally and they really took me under their wing and showed me the ropes. I had to adjust to the quick pace of the taping, as well as stage direction, so they really helped me. All four of the actors you mentioned are so talented that it makes my job easier when working with them, because all you have to do is listen and react.
DC: In a bit of six degrees of soap-eration, you played a gay character, soccer hunk Marco, on 90210, who was the love interest for Teddy, played by Days of Our Lives alum Trevor Dononvan. Are you still in touch with Trevor? If so, what did he think when you told him you were joining the cast of DAYS as a gay character?
FS: Unfortunately, I haven't talked to him since I was on the show, but I did tell him when we were working that I was auditioning for the role and he told me he used to be on DAYS and really liked it.
DC: We hear all the time that actors are afraid of being typecast in gay roles. Was that ever a concern for you in doing two gay roles back-to-back?
FS: No, not really, I feel Marco and Sonny are two different characters and it is two different shows as well, primetime and daytime, so I'm just having fun and enjoying playing Sonny.
DC: Since we're talking alleged stigmas. Were you at all discouraged about doing daytime after having been on a primetime series? I know a lot of people in Hollywood look down their noses at soaps.
FS: Primetime, daytime, film, whatever it is, if it is a great character or role I'm interested in playing it. Especially if you are auditioning for a series regular, an actor is going to want to love this part because we could be doing it for years. I feel blessed to have booked 90210; and then a month after that was over I booked a series regular on DAYS. I have learned so much in the past year working on my craft pretty much everyday. We film and episode or two each day on DAYS, so we get pages and pages of dialogue to learn. DAYS is an acting boot camp and I keep learning everyday.
DC: Let's talk a little about your performance in ACME's Hollywood Dream Role tonight. Will this be your first time doing improv?
FS: I've done a class of improv in Cleveland, Ohio, and then some in high school, but I have never performed live in Los Angeles at a improv club or anything, so I'm excited to do this. I worked with the cast last night so we could get to know each other and they are some of the funniest people I've ever worked with. Hollywood Dream Role has had some amazing guests perform, so I'm pumped that I was asked to do the show. I hope all my fans will check it out and laugh with me....or at me [Laughs]!
DC: Could you ever see yourself doing a sitcom one day?
FS: I would absolutely love to do a sitcom. Modern Family is one of my favorite shows and if I could do a guest spot on a show like that, it would be amazing.
DC: You recently did the NOH8 Campaign. What was that experience like?
FS: It was fun. It's for a great cause, and it was a great way to stand up for what I believe in.
DC: If you could look into the future, where do you see your career 10 years from now?
FS: I would love to be living in a paradise somewhere relaxing and doing a couple feature films a year.
If you're in SoCal tonight be sure to catch Freddie Smith performing in ACME's Hollywood Dream Role, at ACME Comedy Theatre, located at 135 N. La Brea Ave Hollywood, CA 90036. Show starts at 9 pm PST. Not in SoCal? Watch the show live on your PC, smart phone or iPad at www.hollywooddreamrole.com.