>FROM THE CREEK TO THE BIG SCREEN
In Dawson's Creek, Kerr Smith plays Jack McPhee, a gay teenager about to embark on another gay relationship, but fans of the 29-year old heartthrob will get to see him in a sexy, bloodsucking vampire flick called The Forsaken, which his biggest fans may never get to even see. He spoke to PAUL FISCHER in Los Angeles.
Going through the cast list of the horror flick "The Forsaken", reads like a Who's Who of TV's WB Network. Actor Kerr Smith, co-star of "Dawson's Creek", is not surprised.
One of the reasons why 29-year old Smith was attracted to "The Forsaken", was that it afforded him the opportunity to switch from the teen market he has captured through "Dawson's Creek", to a far more adult sensibility. ""There's a certain kind of movie that everyone my age does, and you know what I'm talking about. There are a lot of bad scripts out there and I don't want to do them. I don't want to get trapped. I think it's a dead end. I'm 29-years old; I can't play these 18 or 19-year olds so I want to do real movies, and I felt The Forsaken was a logical progression."
In "The Forsaken", Smith plays would-be film editor who cuts trailers for horror films. En route to attend his sister's weekend, he picks up a hitchhiker who turns out to be a vampire hunter. The pair's cross-country trip turns into a bloody nightmare. Smith recalls getting his first lead in a film, simply by having met the head of Screen Gems "who threw the script at me and told me that I'd be perfect for the film. I loved the fact that it was a vampire film but not a Dracula, which I also love. We made a story with a unique angle, where we treated being a vampire as being more like a blood disorder or a disease, kind of paralleled it to AIDS, modernised the story and made it more believable."
Kerr wanted to ensure that the film "was a step above the typical teenage horror genre film, which I think The Forsaken is. It's edgier, much more real, and not a campy movie." It's also pretty graphic, full of sex, nudity and lots of blood. "That's what people want to see, right? Sex and violence," Smith says laughingly. Smith also admits to being a great fan of vampire movies. "Vampires are just so interesting to me. I'm a huge fan of Anne Rice and in particular the character of LeStat, whom I'm going to play one day, trust me." Another vampire on the cards, typecasting perhaps? "Typecast as a gay character, typecast as a vampire? If I worried about that I'd go CRAZY."
Asked whether Smith's 'teen idol' status limits him in getting accepted for more substantive roles, the actor believes the opposite. "Being on a show like "Dawson's Creek" is like a Catch 22. I wouldn't be doing movies like "The Forsaken" if I wasn't on the show, but being on a show, you've got a three-month window to do it in, so it's very difficult. You've got to pick and choose your projects very carefully. I always make sure I play a much different character from the last project."
Smith, a native of Exton, a suburb of Philadelphia, grew up excelling in a variety of sports, including baseball and skiing. He served as class president in three of his four years of high school. At the University of Vermont, Smith joined the Kappa Sigma fraternity and was a member of the Stowe, Vermont ski patrol.
After graduating with a BA in Business, Smith set out to start a marketing firm with his father. Although he quickly found that he hated selling, he also learned that he very much enjoyed the presentations. An actor was born.
After selling his truck, Smith moved to New York and quickly got a leading role on a daytime soap opera. His next move was to Los Angeles where he landed the job of playing Jack McPhee on "Dawson's Creek."
As the series reaches the end of its third season, the Dawson's gang are off to college, and Smith will be joining them, he says. "First of all, we're not going to try and do a 90210 here, which is hard to do. You've got to move 6 characters and move them all to the same city and make that believable. But we're all going to go to different schools. At the end of this season, my storyline is the proverbial big kiss that I have to do every season."
Actor David Monahan plays the lucky fella he gets to smooch with. "Yep, he's the new love interest on the show, and this time it works out." And Kerr expects 'The Kiss' to create controversy, as usually. "Well it caused controversy last year, but we're doing it again. After all, controversy's good. The bottom line is, we're telling a story of an 18-year old kid, who's coming to terms with his sexuality, and he's dealing with the repercussions of that, with his friends and family, and we're shedding some light on a subject that was taboo five years ago; gay themes are more accepted now. Things are changed, and I'm proud of the topics we address in the show and I think we shed a lot of light on them."
And he's proud of his responsibility to a lot of gay teens who look up to him. "When I started reading my fan mail I realized the responsibility that comes along with a role like this. I wasn't really aware of it when I first took this on. I've been getting a lot of mail from people who were in the closet who were using me as an outlet. "I'm gay, I don't know what to do." And I'm reading this stuff and I'm like, 'What do I know? I'm just an actor. I'm not a therapist. I don't know much about the homosexual world.' (It made me) pretty scared. And then I get these other letters where after watching the episodes last year where Jack comes out of the closet to his father and his friends, after watching that they immediately walk in to the next room and tell their parents they're gay. I'm sitting here reading this and it's just incredible to me."
Kerr won't divulge how much more time he'll spend on the show, but is determined to keep himself busy. "I'm about to shoot two films simultaneously before the strike hits, then go bum around on as many Caribbean islands as I can fit in." Though he's starring in a very adult movie, his teen fans will be pleased to know that at least for the time being, he won't be forsaking them any time soon.