The North Charleston native on his biggest role yet
Born: North Charleston -- Age: 24 -- Lives: Moved to Atlanta two years ago -- Works: Co-owner of Terrance Antonio Photography with two of his brothers -- Acting role model: Sterling K. Brown, who he met on the set of Army Wives -- Goal: A role in the Marvel Universe or a Star Wars film
For the past several years, North Charleston native Deion Smith has had background acting roles and worked as a stand-in on many TV shows that have filmed in the area, including Army Wives and Vice Principals, making connections and hoping for his big break. Last spring, the Charleston County School of the Arts graduate landed his first recurring role in front of the camera playing Kelce, a member of the “Kooks” social clique, in the Netflix series Outer Banks, which filmed in the Lowcountry and made its way to the No. 1 spot on the streaming service after premiering in April. Here, Smith talks about what led to the role.
CM: How did you get into acting?
DS: I was into watching YouTube videos when it first came out. My parents had this old VHS camera laying around the house, and I would go steal it and start making my own little films with my action figures. As I got more skillful at it, I got a new camera, learned how to post to YouTube, and I started making short films of my friends and family. I ended up putting myself in them to fill the gap. But at the time, I didn’t know what I was doing was acting. I was just having fun making stories.
CM: Tell us about your experience on the set of Mr. Mercedes.
DS: I stood in for Jharrel Jerome, who’s an Emmy-award winning actor now, which is crazy. We were on episode five, and the director, Jack Bender, called my name out on set. He said, ‘Hey, man, I heard you’re an actor. How would you like to have a part in the season finale and write a poem for your character to read? ’I said, ‘Oh, yeah!’ It was amazing! I thought, ‘Wow, this is what I’m on set trying to do; this is why I’m here; all of it has paid off.’
On set with his stunt double Jachin JJ Myers
CM: How did you get the role as Kelce in Outer Banks?
DS: I had just auditioned for The Walking Dead, and I was so pumped. I ended up not hearing back. Then the Outer Banks audition came in. I heard back a couple of days later, booked the job that night, and had to be in Charleston the next morning for a fitting. I started filming two days after I auditioned.
CM: Tell us about the character.
DS: He’s one of the antagonists of the main group of kids. His name is Kelce, he’s a Navy Seal wannabe, and he’s the “yes” man to Rafe and Topper. I get into a lot of craziness trying to stay in that friend group and impress them.
CM: Was it fun to play a character who is not very nice or did you find that difficult?
DS: If a character is a jerk or he’s got some issue that makes him complex, I like to dive into those reasons why. It makes it more interesting for me as an actor. I hope I get more of an arc next season and do more crazy stuff.
Is there going to be a season 2?
DS: Netflix hasn’t officially confirmed a full season 2, but they have ordered a couple episodes of season 2 to be written. We’re pretty sure it’s going to get renewed at this point because the show is doing so well. We’re waiting for them to order the rest of the episodes.
Who are your acting role models?
DS: Sterling K. Brown is definitely a big inspiration for me. He’s a family man. It’s hard as an actor to balance everything, and I see how he balances his family and his relationships with this wife and his kids. I actually worked with him on one of my first background jobs as an actor for Army Wives. He and his wife had roles on that show. At the time, he wasn’t as big as he is now. I got the opportunity to work with him, and now he’s one of my favorite actors.
You also own a photography company with your brothers. Tell us about that.
DS: Me and two of my brothers, Terrance and Aaron, own a photography company called Terrance Antonio Photography. It’s based in Charleston, but we’re expanding, so we also have a presence in Atlanta and Charlotte. I’ve been working with them since I was 15. I’m the lead videographer. Right now, our main market is weddings, but we’re pushing more into commercials, short films, and film production.
So would you rather be in front of the camera or behind the camera?
DS: I have the vision of a filmmaker. I don’t think that will ever leave me because that’s how I started. When I have a camera in my hand and I’m setting up a shot, I’m in a completely different headspace. I’m in the headspace of a storyteller through a lens. Then, when I’m in front of the camera, my focus is as a storyteller as a human being and as a character. I get the same energy and same passion from doing both.