Actor Collin Smith took some time to speak with Solzy at the Movies about the recently released film, Bear with Us. Naturally, our love of the Kentucky Wildcats took over the conversation.
Thank you for joining Solzy at the Movies today. How are things treating you?
Collin Smith: Good, thanks. We finally connect.
Bear with Us is your fourth project with director William J. Stribling. What is it about his work that has you coming back for more?
Collin Smith: Joe and I met—I was actually doing a play with his girlfriend. When we met, he was still in undergrad at NYU. We just had a natural rapport with one another. A couple months later, he asked me to be in his senior thesis. I don’t know if you’ve had the opportunity to see the other work we’ve done together but he put me in this role, which was kind of something that I hadn’t done before but we sort of continued doing and it went really well and we had a lot of fun on set.
Actually, as a fellow UK fan, we were filming that the night that UK won the national championship in 2012 so I missed that game—which was a real bummer. He tried to get me out on time but couldn’t do it so he owed me after that and put me in another movie in a completely different role but again, sort of comedic. The more we worked together, the more he got to know me, the more he could sort of write characters with me in mind. The more sort of a short hand that we developed. The working relationship is more simpatico at this point.
After making Bear with Us, are you more or less likely to stay in a cabin in the woods?
Collin Smith: I think since I made Bear with Us, I’ve stayed in a couple cabins in the woods. I haven’t been traumatized from making the film to the point that I would make huge life decisions based around it.
What was going through your mind on the day when nine bears found their way uninvited onto the set of the film?
Collin Smith: Well, that day I was covered in chocolate sauce but fortunately for me and my longevity, I had left at that point. I sort of heard in retrospect that the bears had arrived and I had already hit the showers so I was sort of a bit taken aback but the bears in the Poconos are kind of like giant puppies that can be lethal if provoked. I wasn’t that scared. Maybe a little naïve of me but I’m an animal lover. It’s always going to be a good story to tell.
How exciting was it to go back to Louisville last year during the 2016 Flyover Film Festival for the Kentucky premiere of the film?
Collin Smith: It was great! I love Kentucky. I love Louisville so it was really nice to go. I have a lot of friends there that were able to come see it. My family hadn’t seen it. It was really great to show it there and I got to see a documentary of (inauduble) Wendell Berry, who’s an author I really appreciate, that Nick Offerman had made. It was a really cool and intimate film festival and really nice to sort of be a part of something that’s sort of helping to keep Louisville and Kentucky in the conversation. Not out of the conversation but to keep the film and creative sides but to keep the works coming.
You’re a Kentucky Wildcats fan.
Collin Smith: I am!
Which team has been your favorite to watch?
Collin Smith: How far back to you want to go?
As far back as you want.
Collin Smith: The game that really made me a Cats fan was when we played UMass in 1996 and we lost—the first time. When it was Pitino and Calipari and they had Marcus Campy. I was in 8th grade and I watched that game and we lost. I think there’s a saying that you become a sports fan through your losses and not through your wins so that’s kind of what sold me. With that said, the 1996 team is one of the best college basketball teams ever as far as I’m concerned. They were a lot of fun to watch especially because they were so dominant. As a Kentucky fan, you know that we really appreciate domination.
Recently, I liked Tyler Ulis a lot. I thought he was so charismatic and a lot of fun to watch. Of course, the Anthony Davis team was really great. They sort of hit their stride in January and February. But Tyler Ulis was a really fun guy to play.
I know that 1996 team…
Collin Smith: It doesn’t get any better.
Collin Smith: From start to finish, it was just—even though you know the Karl-Anthony Towns team—they were a lot of fun but there was something—I thought we were vulnerable to a tee. The 1996 team, once they started rolling, there was no team that could stop this team. We just steam-rolled them all the way to the championship game. It was kind of fun to be young and watch that team and just know that nothing to stop them.
I had a chance to meet the large majority of that 1996 squad when they were doing autograph signings in December 2012.
Collin Smith: Oh, yeah? Who did you meet?
Well, I would have to look at the photo and see who signed it because I printed off one of the photos from Derek Anderson’s site and Cameron Mills was sort of mad that he wasn’t on there. (Editor’s Note: I met Derek Anderson, Walter McCarty, Antoine Walker, Wayne Turner, Anthony Epps, Jeff Sheppard, Jared Pricket, and Cameron Mills…Nazr Mohammed did a signing before a Louisville Bats game in 2013.)
Collin Smith: He wasn’t on the poster?
Yeah, for some reason, he wasn’t on there. Even now, when my time permits, I’m writing on his website.
Collin Smith: You still write about Kentucky?
I used to write regularly on Wildcat Blue Nation but when you get a full time job, it’s so hard to find the time to write so I stepped down from there. I had an article up in May but with a lot of my film writing of late, it’s been pretty hard to find the time.
Collin Smith: I hear you. What was the video you made by the way?
Lazy Tuesday. It was on Deadspin and KSR.
Collin Smith: You did Lazy Tuesday? That one’s amazing! I know that one, of course.
Yeah. After coming out as trans in September, everything went offline.
Collin Smith: Oh, I see. Well, Lazy Tuesday was awesome.
It’s nice to be featured in two books about the Wildcats.
Collin Smith: Are you serious? That’s great!
Collin Smith: Wow, awesome!
Any thoughts on the upcoming basketball season?
Collin Smith: What sort of thoughts do I have? Well, the sort of the more Calipari—I really like Calipari. He’s the kind of perfect coach, especially after Gillispie. (Laughs). With that said, I’ve sort of noticed that with his teams, it takes a while to get into a groove. At the beginning of the season, it’s always pretty bumpy. I’m into the positional versatility that we’ve got going with all these guys. They’re like 6’7”, 6’8” athletes. I hope that can make for some fun times. We sort of always worry about shooting. It was nice when we had Doron Lamb because it was like, at least we have a guy that could just break up a zone. It seems like everybody sort of just zones us. It should be an exciting season. I’m excited to watch Quade Green play, Jarred Vanderbilt, and we’ll see what happens with Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones in their second year. But I’m expecting to take a couple losses but hopefully by March, we’ll be gunning.
I know that it’s hard over the last several years to be a Kentucky football fan but do you like the progress that Coach Mark Stoops has made over the last few years?
Collin Smith: Oh my G-d, so last year was kind of an incredible year. I watched the game where we had it in hand—I think it was Labor Day—but we ended up losing. Then Steven Johnson started quarterbacking and the whole shift happen. It was cool to see when football is like every game is make or break. I think since Brooks, Stoops is the best coach that I’ve ever seen and it seems like we’ve got some good talent. The SEC is always such a monster. I’m hoping they make an improvement, especially on defense and we can grab a couple more games and hopefully get passed seven or eight wins. I feel like that’s a good thing to hope for. I’m not hoping for ten wins or anything like that. Maybe it could happen, you never know. I’m rooting for maybe seven or eight and then just keep on building. The team that we’re recruiting is going really well and this wide receiver just decided to go to Ohio State. When you’re in the conversation with the big football schools, that’s kind of a good thing.
If you weren’t acting, what would you be doing?
Collin Smith: I don’t know. That’s a really good question. I found a real love of acting early on and just never looked back. Maybe writing about Kentucky basketball? My mom thought I should do that. I used to read about it so much especially growing up when the internet first happened and the blogs first started out. I was kind of reading those.
Other than that, I really love cooking so maybe doing that. I work with a lot of farmers in New York and really have grown to appreciate how to grow food—so probably doing something in that industry. It’s hard to say—I’ve been a one-track mind. Once I found acting, it’s kind of all I’ve really wanted to do.
What other projects are you working on?
Collin Smith: Right now, I’m in a play here, sort of downtown theater in New York. Our last performance is on Saturday.
I just did a day on a show called Happy, which you may have heard about. It’s a show with Patton Oswalt and Christopher Meloni so that was a lot of fun. Joe and I are always talking about what’s coming up next. He’s writing with Russ a couple things that hopefully will come through. Other than that, once the play is over, I’ll start auditioning again. I’ve also written a few things that were produced—a pilot. One of them is going to the independent television festival in October. Another one—we’re shopping around still with some friends of mine who are filmmakers here so we’ll see what happens. Those of the sort of the things that I’m trying to spearhead and there’s all this other stuff that come in so keep grinding out here.
Thanks again for your time?
Collin Smith: Thanks so much, Danielle. Have a good one.