Brian Michael Smith

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Brian Michael Smith
Photo of Brian Michael at 2018 GLAAD Media Awards in NYC
Actor Brian Michael at 2018 GLAAD[1] Media Awards in NYC.
Brian Michael Smith

(1983-01-29) January 29, 1983 (age 36)
Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States
Years active2012–present
Known forQueen Sugar

Brian Michael Smith (born January 29, 1983) is an American actor known for his recurring role in OWN's Queen Sugar[2] as well as appearances on NBC's Chicago P.D., HBO's Girls and Showtime thriller Homeland. In June 2019, he was named to the The L Word: Generation Q cast.[3]

Early life[edit]

Brian Michael Smith was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was raised by his mother, Ingrid Smith, an event planner and Ford Motor Company employee, with the support of his close-knit family. He and his mother spent his early years living with aunts, cousins and an adopted brother.[4]

Although assigned female at birth, he self-identified as male, and was perceived as male, throughout his childhood. He challenged pressures to conform to his assigned role through performance and athletics.[4][5]

While attending Ann Arbor Pioneer High School he played defensive end and fullback on the boys football team during the fall and set records[6] in shot put and pole vaulting on the girls track & field team in the spring.[4]

On September 17, 1999, during a game at Traverse City, Smith became the first female* athlete to score a varsity touchdown[7][8][9] in the State of Michigan.


Smith studied acting and video production at Kent State University. Upon graduation, he began teaching drama and media literacy to teens until he moved to New York City to pursue a career in acting.[10]

He began training under Terry Knickerbocker at the William Esper Studio in 2011. While studying, he earned featured roles on a few TV shows and a Toyota commercial opposite Eli Manning.[11][12]

He has also explored the stage, performing stand-up, sketch, and improv comedy as a member of numerous troupes including Gotham City Improv,[citation needed] as well as acting in off-Broadway and regional theater in a handful of plays, including Women Are Crazy Because Men Are A**Holes and Mitch Albom's Duck Hunter Shoots Angel.[4]

In 2015, he earned his first speaking credit in Season 4 of HBO's Girls opposite Jemima Kirke and Adam Driver.[13] This followed with similar roles on TV shows including Blue Bloods, Person of Interest, and Law & Order: SVU.


Television roles
Year Title Role Notes
2015 Girls Cop 1
2016 The Detour Firefighter
2016-2018 Blue Bloods Officer Buckley, Hoffman's Partner 4 Episodes
2017 Chicago P.D. Roland Garrett
2018 Homeland EMT Nate
2017–Present Queen Sugar Toine Wilkins Recurring
2019 The L Word: Generation Q Pierce Williams Recurring

Queen Sugar

In 2017, Smith got the role of Officer Antoine "Toine" Wilkins on OWN's series Queen Sugar. Executive-produced by Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey, the Louisiana-set drama focuses on the lives and loves of the estranged Bordelon siblings. The show is based on the novel Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile.

In "Caroling Dusk," the fifth episode of season two, Ralph Angel Bordelon has a run-in with police as he is digging through a dumpster in search of his son's doll, which had been thrown away accidentally.[14] One of the police officers who confronts him is Toine, an old friend from high school. Toine also happens to be a trans man.[15]

The role was one of Smith's first opportunities to play a transgender character and explore his own life experiences in his acting.[12] As he has put it,

Toine and Ralph's relationship is much more reflective of the experiences I've had with long-time friends and I hadn't seen that on screen yet. I was excited at the thought of sharing this with people who may not know that they know trans people in their personal life.[10]

In 2018, Ava Duvernay won a GLAAD Excellence in Media Award for her advocacy for inclusion of LGBT people in front of and behind the camera on her projects, particularly for creating Toine Wilkins and casting a transgender actor for the role.[16]


Brian Michael Smith, Janet Mock, and Amiyah Scott hold a panel discussion at the University of Michigan “My Life. My Story! Centering the Voices of Trans Lives” Event in February 2018.

Upon graduating from Kent State, Michael returned to Michigan and began teaching and mentoring youth through filmmaking through the Gear Up Program at the University of Michigan.[17]

In New York, he continued his media literacy and mentoring programs with Wingspan Arts, Maysles Documentary Center and the Tribeca Film Institute's Tribeca Teaches Program. He discovered the importance of community and visibility while he worked with LGBT youth at the Manhattan LGBT Center[12]

"I worked with young people and I just saw how important it was for young LGBT people, no matter where they were in their experience, to see what is down the road for them.[12] - Brian Michael Smith, NBC News

Since Queen Sugar, Michael has used his visibility and platforms to advocate for better Trans representation in TV & Film and to encourage LGBTQ youth to create their own media.

In February 2018, he was a special guest and panelist at the University of Michigan 4th Annual Trotter House Lecture Series, My Life, My Story! Centering the Lives of Trans Voices event alongside Janet Mock and Amiyah Scott.[17]

He was the Keynote speaker at the Reel Out Charlotte Film Festival 10th Anniversary Celebration in May 2018.[18]

During NYC Pride he participated in the GLAAD Game Changers Panel in 2018 with Jamie Clayton and Amiyah Scott to discuss the changing landscape of Transgender representation in Television.[19]

In August 2018, Brian Michael joined Laverne Cox, Trace Lysette, Jen Richards, Alexandra Billings and Chaz Bono in a Variety Magazine’s first Transgender In Hollywood Roundtable. The hour long roundtable discussion video was released in conjunction with the August 7th print issue dedicated to trans representation and discrimination within Hollywood.[20]

"We are artists and we want to create things and we want to have choice and our visibility should not cost us that choice.” -Brian Michael Smith, Variety Magazine [21]

In addition to public speaking, he continues to advocate through his art and to support trans narratives in TV and Film by participating in projects such as Emmett Jack Lundberg's series Brothers [22] and his own upcoming short film, Tell By Date.


  1. ^ "Brian Michael". IMDb. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  2. ^ "'Queen Sugar' Actor Brian Michael on Transgender Scene: 'It's Important to Have This Element of Truth'". TheWrap. July 13, 2017. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  3. ^ "'The L Word: Generation Q' casts 'One Mississippi' and 'Queen Sugar' stars". Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d "Brian Michael on breaking barriers for trans male actors and his 'Queen Sugar' role". Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  5. ^ Walsh, S.M. (July 13, 2017). "Brian Michael, Antoine Wilkins on 'Queen Sugar': 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  6. ^ "MICHIGAN HIGH SCHOOL TRACK & FIELD REGIONALS «". Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  7. ^ Lawler, Jennifer (2002). Punch!: Why Women Participate in Violent Sports. Wish Publishing. ISBN 9781930546509.
  8. ^ "American Football Monthly - High School Notes". Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  9. ^ "Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan on November 8, 1999 · Page 39". Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  10. ^ a b "GLAAD talks to Brian Michael from OWN's Queen Sugar". GLAAD. July 10, 2017. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  11. ^ Brian Michael (February 6, 2013), Toyota Commercial Eli Really Does Lawnmower, retrieved July 5, 2018
  12. ^ a b c d "'Queen Sugar' actor Brian Michael Smith comes out as transgender". NBC News. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  13. ^ "Who's That Guy Arresting Girls' Jessa??". BuzzFeed Community. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  14. ^ Please see the Wikipedia article "Dumpster diving" for reasons why police in the United States have been called on people going into dumpsters to look for things.
  15. ^ "Ralph Angel Reconnects with a Transgender Man He Once Protected". Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  16. ^ "Watch Ava DuVernay Discuss "This Leaderless Country" in GLAAD Awards Speech (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  17. ^ a b "Trotter Multicultural Center hosts lecture honoring transgender and nonbinary stories". The Michigan Daily. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  18. ^ "Spring 2018 Spotlight: Brian Michael - Charlotte Pride". Charlotte Pride. March 8, 2018. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  19. ^ "NYC Pride and GLAAD Host 'Game Changers' Series". Instinct. June 20, 2018. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  20. ^ Setoodeh, Ramin (August 7, 2018). "Transgender Actors Roundtable: Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono and More on Hollywood Discrimination". Variety. Retrieved September 23, 2018.
  21. ^ Variety (August 7, 2018), Variety's Transgender In Hollywood Roundtable, retrieved September 23, 2018
  22. ^ Robinson, Charlotte (June 30, 2016). "Emmett Jack Lundberg Talks Brothers Transgender Web Series And More (AUDIO)". Huffington Post. Retrieved July 5, 2018.

External links[edit]