Throwback Thursday

#TBT - Freddie Smith

Smith

Credit: JPI

This interview originally appeared in the August 30, 2011 issue of Soap Opera Digest

It’s a long way from Ashtabula, OH to Los Angeles, but traveling from one place to the next is kind of the same, muses DAYS OF OUR LIVES newcomer Freddie Smith. “In Ashtabula, you have to make time for everywhere you go. For instance, if you’re going to the grocery store, you have to set aside a half-hour because you’re going to run into people you know and you’re going to chit-chat.”

Smith grew up as an only child, but he has deep family ties. “I was very close to my two cousins, Tara and Sheree; Tara is four years older and Sheree is nine months younger. We hung out every day, but we never fought, probably because we didn’t live together,” he reflects. Smith also enjoyed the companionship of his mom and dad. “My dad used to come home from work at 3 o’clock and we would always go play basketball,” he recounts. “He was my buddy. We did everything together.” Smith also has fond memories of times spent with his mom. “Every night, we’d sit and watch an hour of GOLDEN GIRLS reruns. My mom said it was her favorite show and I got hooked. I’m fortunate to have parents who are together. They raised me to be a good person and a hard worker. I believe I’m working today because my dad worked seven days a week, every day of his life. We’d snowplow the driveway, cut the lawn, dig a ditch, put up a fence. We were always working, so I grew up learning responsibility. I’m really applying it to my life now and it’s helping me greatly.”

Courtesy of Freddie Smith

Up until his senior year in high school, Smith “lived and breathed basketball.” But then a friend suggested they take a theater arts class together. “It was the most fun experience of my life,” he smiles. “After I took that class, I got hooked on performing. I started taking acting classes in Cleveland and decided that acting is what I wanted to do. I packed up, moved to L.A. and went for it. Since I was the only child, I think my parents were very scared for me. I was, too. But I’m glad that they supported my decision. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t be here today.”

After settling into his first apartment, Smith discovered he had a lot to learn about living away from home. “Two weeks after I moved to L.A., I remember calling my mom and asking, ‘Can I put brown and black shirts in the same wash?’ I didn’t know anything and I realized, ‘I need to grow up right now!’ ”

Meanwhile, Smith was fortunate that he quickly secured a talent manager and agent. “I started auditioning right away,” he shares, “but I couldn’t keep a job. It was hard to balance auditioning while holding a job that paid the bills.” Smith burned through a string of gigs, including a stint at AAA, a doggie day care and working as a food runner at a restaurant before landing at American Eagle. “I worked there for a year-and-a-half and then at Outback Steakhouse. Those were my two longest-lasting jobs.” Looking back on his early days in L.A., Smith asserts, “It was the best thing ever. I feel like everyone should move to a big city. You have to learn quick to survive.”

Eventually, Smith booked several commercials, guest-starred on the prime-time series MEDIUM, followed by a recurring role in 2010 as Marco Salazar on 90210. “Technically, I’ve been a working actor for almost two years,” he notes.

The CW

In March, he auditioned for DAYS. “I originally went in for a different character, a high school quarterback named Ryan,” he reveals. “I went back a couple of times and then Marnie Saitta, DAYS’ s casting director, told me, ‘The character’s changing to a gay role.’ ” Coincidentally, Smith’s 90210 character was gay and he had no reservations about playing another one. “I was like, ‘Cool,’ ” he recalls.

Smith screen-tested with Judi Evans (Adrienne). “It was a scene between Adrienne and Sonny,” he describes. “They were talking about him being gay and how she accepted it. When it was over, I had an inkling I would get it because Judi and I clicked so well.” He welcomes the opportunity to play such a groundbreaking part in Salem. “I love that I can do a role like this, stand up and speak out on what I believe in. I want to show that it’s okay. Be who you want to be, love who you want. That’s what we’re all trying to do, find what makes us happy, whether it’s a relationship or your career.”

JPI

Once the actor found out that the role was his, he quickly contacted his family to share the good news. “My aunt has watched DAYS her whole life. She’ll call me and say, ‘I can’t believe you’re on my soap opera!’ Meanwhile, my mom watched GENERAL HOSPITAL. She went crazy when I told her that Wally Kurth [Justin] was playing my dad. She said, ‘He used to play Ned on my favorite soap! I want to meet him!’ ”

Though he’s only been on the show for a little while, Smith can already appreciate the similarities between his reel life and real life. “I can relate to Salem because it’s kind of like Ashtabula,” he explains. “Wally and Judi are amazing to work with. We all like each other. I apply how I would feel if I was talking to my parents. I’m very pleased with everything. It’s great!”

Just the Facts

Birthday: March 19, 1988

Hometown: Ashtabula, OH

Commercial Credits: Taco Bell, JC Penney and PetSmart. “They all came within a year.”

In The Zip Code: Played Marco Salazar on 90210

Favorite TV Show Growing Up: FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR

Preferred Reading: “I don’t read fiction. On my nightstand now, I have books about stocks. I’m fascinated by different business strategies. I enjoy learning new things.”

First Big Purchase: “On January 23 of this year, I bought a car. It was the greatest feeling to sign the papers and drive off the lot. I don’t really splurge; I’m a big saver. But this was something I’ve always wanted. It was a great feeling to know that I earned it and I could treat myself.”

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