Smith plays a closeted gay man in the AIDS drama “1985.”
Cory Michael Smith, who plays The Riddler (a.k.a. Edward Nygma) in Fox’s hit series Gotham, opens up about his sexuality in a new interview with The Daily Beast.
Smith is promoting his role as Adrian, a closeted gay New Yorker with AIDS who returns to his Texas hometown during the early days of the epidemic, in out filmmaker Yen Tan’s 1985. The black-and-white drama, which premiered earlier this month at SXSW Festival, is adapted from Tan’s 2016 short of the same name.
“There’s something special about telling a story that feels closer to home,” says Smith, who “identifies as queer,” according to the Daily Beast writer. “I’m not exactly like The Riddler in real life.”
Smith is also quoted as saying his family handled his coming out with “a lot of love,” though it took “a lot of time.” The 31-year-old actor, who was raised in Ohio, related to Adrian visiting his parents (Virginia Madsen and Michael Chiklis) for the holidays.
“Going home and that whole charade is very familiar,” Smith says. “The first family dinner after a while. Coming out to a family, the fear of that.”
“This story, a story about AIDS and stripping away politics, stripping away activism, stripping away the medical drama of it, what you’re left with is something so personal about family and connecting with family and keeping secrets with family,” Smith continues. “It just overwhelmed me.”
The interviewer reports that Smith “tears up while recounting how, while shooting, he kept a book of photos of men who were dying at that time, men who were just like Adrian. Who, had he been born then, could have been him.”
“I don’t ever want to insinuate or push that the queer experience is hindered with shame or darkness and depression,” Smith says.
An accomplished stage actor, Smith memorably starred as a young man torn between his boyfriend and a female fling in the 2012 off-Broadway premiere of Cock. He made his Broadway debut the following year as the queer narrator in an adaptation of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
“Sexual ambiguity is exciting,” Smith told Paper in 2013. “I wish there were more people who were more outspokenly bisexual or gender-fuckers. I enjoy being in pieces that push that line.” Regarding his own sexuality, he added, “I think I’ve labeled myself everything at this point. A psychologist would have a field day with me, which is why I’ll never go to one.”
Smith, who appeared in Carol and HBO’s Olive Kitteridge, recently had a featured role in Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck. He is next set to play astronaut Roger Chaffee in Damien Chazelle’s First Man.