Photo by Taylor Jarvis: http://www.palegirlphotography.com
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With its unique twist on a treasure hunt plot and drive for nonstop adventure, it’s no wonder that Outer Banks rose to Netflix’s number one series spot in the U.S. shortly after its premiere. The island is divided into two opposing social class groups called the “Pogues” and the “Kooks.” Charleston-born actor Deion Smith plays the character Kelce, who’s part of a Kook friend group consisting of Topper and Rafe. Together, their hostility towards Pogues causes problems for John B’s squad, one of them occurring when Kelce comes face to face with John B during a threatening, action-packed police chase. Before Outer Banks, Smith has starred in series such as Mr. Mercedes and Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda. Not only does Smith act, but he also works on the other side of the camera, proficient in directing and filming. In our interview, Deion Smith shares his experiences about playing the role of Kelce and how he grew his passions for acting and film.
Congrats on having a number one show on Netflix in the U.S.! When you first started working on the project, did you ever think it was going to have this huge effect towards your audience?
Thank you so much! I think for all of us this whole experience was so crazy that when we first started, we were all kind of still in this state of mind where everything was still surreal. At first, I was still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I just booked this Netflix gig. When you shoot shows you never really know how its gonna do for sure, but I think we were all very optimistic and thought that it would do well. We just didn’t think it would happen as fast as it did.
Can you tell us about how you heard about the role for Kelce and what drove you to audition for Outer Banks?
So, my agents actually sent me an audition for Pope first but turned it down because I thought I was too old haha. I think a few months later, I got another audition for Kelce and the description of the character was very vague. At the time I had just auditioned for another show that I really wanted to be on but didn’t hear anything back from, so when this audition came through, I wasn’t super thrilled for it. But I did it. Thought I did terrible haha, then heard back within the next few days or so that I had booked the part and the rest is pretty much history.
Photo by Elaine: Deion Smith with his fellow castmates on set
You’ve said in an interview that Kelce was originally supposed to be in one episode, but the writers decided to make him a reappearing character throughout the show. What do you think made Kelce become a reappearing character and if there was going to be a season 2, what do you hope for him? Although Kelce is a bully, do you think he has the ability to change, as Topper did when he helped John B. escape the cops?
Yeah, when I got the original breakdown from my agent in the description it said the role was only supposed to work for one episode, but was just added to four more episodes. So, when I auditioned, Kelce was already upped to five episodes. Once I got on set and started working more and more, I began talking to the show runners Josh and Jonas Pate, and Shannon Burke, the writer. They told me about how they were going to write me in more episodes. One of the reasons I think it happened is because Kelce is in that main “Kook” friend group and it really wouldn’t make sense for me to make a couple appearances and then just disappear? I also think it contributed to my work ethic and relationships I made on set. Everyone was amazing to work with. I would hope in season two that Kelce definitely gets more of an arc. It’d be cool to dive more into his backstory, what makes Kelce who is as a person. I’m up for anything. I’m up to do some more bad stuff, but I’m also open to a bit of a redemption arc. Who knows? Only time will tell.
What was your favorite part of filming and what was the most challenging part?
My favorite part about filming this show was definitely the fact that it was a show centered around the beaches and water. I actually was born and raised in Charleston so one of my favorite things to do when I get home (if I have time) is go to the beach or go out on the boat with friends. I love that stuff, so I think the fact that we filmed a lot around that environment made it so much more fun. The most challenging part for me about filming was definitely reminding myself that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I had some issues with doubting my capabilities and comparing myself/skills to that of my fellow costars at times. One thing that helped me throughout the season was praying in my trailer before going to set every day. That really helped remind me that I was there for a reason and that God is ultimately in control. I just gave all my fears and doubts to him and just did my best.
Deion Smith with his stunt double, Jachin JJ Myers
What are some important things you’ve taken away from filming the show? Did you get to learn any fun skills such as surfing?
I definitely learned a lot about acting. I learned my strengths and I learned my weaknesses throughout this entire process. Luckily, I had a very supportive and encouraging cast and crew that always welcomed me with open arms about anything I was having trouble with. It was amazing. One new thing that I got to experience was working with stunts. I never realized how technical that process is. Every move is intentional. Those guys are insanely talented individuals and it was so fun getting to work with our stunt team!
The Outer Banks cast has spoken a lot about how you all instantly connected and became close friends. What do you think has made this filming experience unique?
Definitely the fact that I already had a relationship with some of the cast members prior the show. Madelyn Cline who plays Sarah Cameron is also a Charleston native. She and I started off acting together in the same industry and became good friends as we grew up. I also knew Madison Bailey, who plays Kiara, from a show we did together called Mr. Mercedes. Knowing them already definitely helped break the ice and made this experience ten times better. It was like a family. I remember facetiming Bailey the day I booked the part and was headed to Charleston. She was already filming on set, so I got to meet Jonas on facetime before I met him in person; It was so cool. I also remember showing up to set the first day and seeing Cline after not seeing her for two years, and just embracing each other and catching up. As far as the guys, we all meshed together so quickly and became brothers it was awesome. I wouldn’t trade any of the cast for the world.
Deion Smith with the stunt team
In addition to acting, you also work as a videographer and photographer for Terrance Antonio Productions, specializing in weddings, commercial, and fashion. How does practicing both film and acting skills help you with your two different passions? Have you always seen yourself going down both paths or did you just fall into it?
Yes! I actually started working with Terrance when I was fifteen and he’s a big part of the reason why I am where I am today. It’s helped me in a lot of ways. As a filmmaker I’ve learned the technical side behind making movies so I understand the process behind the camera and it helps when acting, because I have an idea of what the director or the camera operator is looking for because I understand the process of storytelling as a filmmaker. I actually started off just making films. I was acting in them with my friends but at the time I didn’t know what I was doing was “acting.” I was just filling in to carry along my story. I think for me acting hit me once I started attending a performing arts school in my hometown that my mom made me audition for. Once I got accepted into there, I started doing a lot plays and just fell into it.
Do you have any advice for aspiring videographers or actors?
Yes, all in all, just study the craft as much as you can and practice as much as you can. YouTube is a great resource for both acting and filmmaking. There’s also classes and books that are out there. The options are endless. Also, persistence. I think that’s the most important thing. Figure out why you want to do it, be honest with yourself, and go from there. Don’t give up no matter how hard it gets, and it will pay off eventually.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS:
What TV show(s) are you currently watching?
Survivor’s Remorse. I don’t understand why they cancelled it.
If you had to switch Outer Banks characters for a day, who would you want to play?
Rafe Cameron. His rage intrigues me.
Which cast member would be most likely to pull a prank on set?
All of the guys and Madelyn Cline.
Deion Smith on the set of Outer Banks
Photo by Taylor Jarvis: http://www.palegirlphotography.com