June Spotlight: Bri Smith

Posted on June 4, 2021 in Spotlight
Bri giving sass, around age 4

Can you tell us about your childhood and where you grew up?
I was born in a small suburb of Alabama and lived there until I was about 8. I thought my childhood was pretty normal until I moved to California and discovered most kids didn’t go to a horse camp every summer where the kids fell off their horses so regularly that the camp owner had turned it into a drinking game. When someone fell, he’d chug a beer and stick the empty can onto a nearby branch to the point where the property looked like a forest of Bud Light trees. Needless to say, when we moved to Mission Viejo, it was a different kind of a vibe. My accent began to fade, but I was still this outgoing class clown who dreamed of being on the big screen.

What made you want to get into acting?
When I was growing up, watching movies were a huge part of my life. I’d spend hours fantasizing about being apart of something so cool. My favorites were “Indiana Jones” and “Airplane!” because I was excited by adventure but also loved absurd comedies. I always performed in plays as a kid and even wrote one that was put on at my middle school. I continued taking acting classes throughout high school, so when I went to college, I knew this was my passion and what I was going to pursue.

Goofing off in the ball pit as a kid

What were some of your first experiences in performance?
In the 4th grade I remember really wanting to be apart of my school’s talent show. I didn’t know what to do for the audition though, so I sang an Avril Lavigne song and… it didn’t go well. Basically, I’m not a singer. I blame Avril. The next year in the 5th grade, I got asked to host the show! Which was exciting, but I still wasn’t an act in the show itself. Finally, in the 6th grade, my last year of elementary school, I wrote a comedy skit and asked my friends to be in it with me. It was about popular girls getting beat out by nerdy girls at their school’s cheerleader tryouts (how original, Bri). The skit was the show’s closer though and ended up being a huge success – the audience thought it was hilarious! Suffice to say I knew I found something I was good at.

How did you land the Production Assistant jobs on Lethal Weapon and Switched at Birth?
When I moved to LA, I basically had zero connections. The phrase “it’s all about who you know” didn’t really make sense to me until I was in the heat of everything. What they don’t tell you is that connections don’t always have to mean something strictly transactional, and they can just be the friends you make along the way. That’s how I landed my first PA gig. Granted, I went to film school for a bit and had a resume with related experience, but you get the idea. From there, I continued to make connections on TV shows I worked on which allowed me to get even more work, even as an actor!

One of the middle school plays Bri was in, circa 2008

Were those beneficial experiences as an actor?
Absolutely. You can take all the acting classes in the world, but if you don’t know how a set operates, who’s who, or that you have marks on the ground you have to hit, you could fall flat on your face when you get there. Or potentially piss a lot of people off. Those experiences gave me a huge advantage on set because I knew the lingo, and I could read between the lines and hit my marks when it mattered most. It gave me confidence and familiarity, so all I had left to do was act.

Bri’s first major role on a show produced by Khloe Kardashian

What was your first major acting gig?
My first major acting gig was a role on an Investigation Discovery show called “Twisted Sisters” which was Executive Produced by Khloe Kardashian. I played an evil husband-killing sister and got to spend a couple of days filming out on a beautiful property near Disney Ranch. It was on cable TV, so it counts!

Tell us about Louey & Bri. How did this project come to be?
I actually met Luis Guzman when I was working on the set of Code Black. We quickly became friends, going salsa dancing on weekends and having potlucks. Luis had brought up the idea of doing a show together a couple of times, but I didn’t take him seriously because we were always joking around. Then one day we were driving back from a friend’s house and he brought it up again and I realized he actually was being serious. Thus “Louey & Bri TV” was born! We really wanted to stay true to the type of comedy we both liked and knew a web series would be a perfect format for it. We’d chat about ideas, I’d go off and write the scripts, then we’d meet up over lunch and he’d give me notes as we discussed even more ideas. The whole experience was exciting and I’m so happy with the way the show turned out.

Still from Louey & Bri TV
On the set of Code Black with Luis Guzman

What sort of doors has this project opened up for you?
“Louey & Bri TV” did really well at festivals and won a handful of awards, like Best Web Series at the Irvine International Film Festival, Mexico City International Film Festival, and the Austin Comedy Film Festival. I’ve never done a festival circuit before, so it’s been awesome to meet other filmmakers and watch projects from up-and-comers in the industry. Just generally, “Louey & Bri TV” has gotten the attention of more casting offices, which has helped me get more auditions and book more roles.

You had a role on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Tell us about that day on set.
Oh man, that was a fun one! We filmed at Tiato in Santa Monica and I just remember being unable to believe that I was actually on Curb in a scene with Larry David, Jeff Garlin, and Nick Kroll. I mean, holy shit! Everyone was super nice and it felt good to be there. I’m just grateful for the opportunity (and for those improv classes!).

Scene in Curb Your Enthusiasm
On the set of Curb Your Enthusiasm

You wrote, directed, and produced a short called Falling Through the Cracks. Can you tell us about that project.
This was a project close to home for me. It was based on a true story about my brother Jay who has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of Autism. He’s struggled his whole life with maintaining a job, not because he doesn’t want to work, but because he’s misunderstood and often labeled as difficult. Social Security Disability doesn’t recognize those in his situation though, so I wanted to create something that shone a light on that and how it affected my brother and my mom. The hope was that others with similar stories could relate, while more awareness would be brought to something that many struggle with.

Falling Through the Cracks poster

Do you see yourself writing and directing more projects down the line?
Definitely. I’m in the process of writing a half hour comedy pilot that I’m really excited about. I think when you come up with a good idea, you have to just go for it. I’d also love to direct something I haven’t written just to help bring someone else’s words to life. I love a good challenge and collaborating with other like-minded filmmakers.

On the radio show “A Climb to the Top” with Chuck Garcia

What has been one of the most rewarding memories you have working in Hollywood so far?
My former college professor asked if I could come on his radio show to share my story about working in the film industry and being an actor. I didn’t realize the full impact this would have on listeners, but someone reached out to me afterwards and said it was really helpful to them. I think it’s important to be open about your journey so someone else can learn from it, and to give back by sharing whatever knowledge you have.

At a fashion show

What have you been doing to keep yourself busy and creative this past year?
Basically anything that would distract me from the pandemic. I did a lot of puzzles, which was fine, but the real joy came from destroying them as soon as I finished. A lot more satisfying than you would think. I also read as many books as I could, wrote, went hiking, caught up on Drag Race, and finally learned my mail delivery person’s name… Greg?

What’s up next for you?
Push, push, push. We’re in a tough industry, and it’s easy to get jaded, but I’m playing the long game. I find the fun or beauty in a script I read or a project I’m apart of no matter how small, and I think it’s important to always keep perspective. I also make sure to take time for myself and enjoy something as simple as a bird hanging outside my window even WITH it’s incessant squawking. I’ll find you, you vindictive canary bird.

But really, I’ll keep writing, auditioning, making content with friends, and feeling lucky that I get to do this shit for a living.

Photoshoot from college in NYC

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