By Diane Anderson-Minshall
Originally published on Advocate.com August 23 2012 5:00 AM ET
Playing Sonny, the first gay character on NBC's venerable daytime soap Days of Our Lives, has earned Freddie Smith a GLAAD Award and a legion of gay fans. In this week's story arc — which Smith says will affect LGBT youth and those around them — Sonny gets to take center stage with a pivotal storyline about antigay bullying. The episode tackles insecurities, masculinity, violence, and parental concern. The Advocate caught up with the busy actor to talk about the series, his gay fans, and his bright future in Hollywood.
The Advocate: Tell me about your Days of our Lives storyline coming up. It sounds like you are going to get gay-bashed?
Freddie Smith: When Sonny first came to Salem, he had a run-in with Tad, who was uncomfortable with the fact that Sonny is gay. Tad left for a while, but now he is back and even more angry at Sonny because Tad is blaming Sonny for "turning" Will gay. Tad starts to bully Sonny and it gets violent.
There’s so much violence against young LGBT kids still. How important is an episode like this?
It is very important to bring awareness to bullying. It has such a huge impact on the youth, and we need to show how it negatively affects others. Nowadays there are many ways that kids are getting bullied — through the Internet, school, work. We need to step up and start making a change, and one way the entertainment business and media is helping is by bringing it into everyone's home with great storylines on TV shows and movies.
Your character Sonny Kiriakis was the first openly gay character on Days of Our Lives. What kind of response have you gotten?
I have had 99% great feedback and support for Sonny. It made this entire experience that much more enjoyable knowing that I could shed light on the issues that are happening in the world and tell a story and to show how someone's sexual orientation is just a small part of who they are.
You were on the job several weeks before you found out whom your love interest would be on Days. How fun was that guessing game?
Well, I was pretty sure coming into the role that Will would be my love interest, but then there was talk about maybe Chad being the love interest. Which would have be fine. He is an amazing guy and a great actor but I think is a bit too tall for me. [Laughs]
You and costar Chandler Massey [who plays Will, pictured right] accepted a GLAAD Media Award for your work this year. What was that moment like?
It was a wonderful experience to be honored with a GLAAD Award. Chandler and I were very humbled to have gotten such an amazing award. The dinner and the entire event was something I will never forget. I think GLAAD is doing the society such a great service and I support them 100%.
You grew up in Ashtabula, Ohio. Tell me about the move to Los Angeles. Did you come out on a wing and prayer or did you already have work lined up?
I decided midway through my senior year that I wanted to come to L.A. and pursue acting. I began acting classes in Cleveland on the weekends, got a job at McDonald's to save money, and then three weeks after graduating I packed up my car and drove out here. I didn't have a job lined up. I did have some meetings with managers and agents, but I didn't get my first legit job until about a year after being here, which was a costar on Medium.
What do you hope to do after Days? In front or behind the camera? Movies or TV?
I would love to wear many hats in this business. I love acting, but I would also love to be on the creative side of things as well, later in my career.
I saw you posed for the NoH8 Campaign. Why was that important?
I posed to voice my opinion and stand up for what I believe in and support.
We don't see you without your shirt off enough.
Shirtless scenes are coming up in the near future.