Ottawa Sun
January 20, 2002

Reluctant star
Law school next for Queer As Folk's Makyla Smith
by Claire Bickley

Makyla SmithMakyla Smith has a thing for body adornment and animals, but she's less certain about acting.

That may surprise some who know her from her role on Queer As Folk, one of the most attention-getting series on Canadian television.

The 19-year-old plays Daphne Chanders, best friend of Justin (Randy Harrison), the teenager who was beaten into a coma by a gaybasher in last season's cliffhanger finale. The second season begins Monday at 10 p.m. on Showcase with Justin alive, but far from emotionally well.

"I don't think I'm passionate enough about it to go for it all the way," Smith says of her current profession. (Well, one of them -- she's also a full-time Environmental Studies student at Toronto's York University and has jobs at a pet store and with a company that promotes raves.)

She has always been a backstage baby, watching the highs and lows of the business as experienced by her mother, actress Alison Sealy-Smith (The Ride, Street Legal). It wasn't until three years ago that she expressed any interest in following in her mother's footsteps.

"I hadn't had any classes or done anything like that. I just woke up one day and it popped in my head. I'm like that. If it pops in my head, it has to be done, like, the second it pops in my head," she says. "If it happens, it happens. If something happens one day and I become amazingly famous, I'm not going to stop and do something else. But I'm not planning on it. I'm not working on it as my goal."

Her first lead role came opposite her mom in an episode of the HBO miniseries Dear America. She has also appeared on a couple of episodes of The Famous Jett Jackson, worked on commercials and has parts in the upcoming films The Matthew Shepard Story and Owning Mahowny.

When she got the opportunity to be part of the North American remake of Queer As Folk, a sexually explicit series following the lives of gay and lesbian friends in Pittsburgh, her mother was leery. "At first, she thought it was about younger gay people. She thought it was about high school students or whatever. The producers had sent her a tape of the British version to watch, so she saw that and she was, like, 'Oh my God, Makyla, are you sure you want to do this?' She didn't know how deeply involved my character was going to get."

Makyla and RandyDaphne has kept her clothes on more than most of the show's characters, but Smith was called on to do a sex scene in an episode in which Daphne asked best friend Justin to introduce her to lovemaking.

"They didn't want it to be graphic. They wanted it to be a really different sex scene from the other ones they've done. They wanted it to be really sweet and caring and passionate and stuff. So there wasn't really very much of me showing. I had a bra on, and underneath the blankets, I had on a pair of track pants. They just showed me in my bra. It was a little embarrassing because everybody was there, but I know all the crew. And it was Randy, and Randy and I are pretty good friends, so it was all right."

They had to shoot around Smith's tattoos, which include a large colourful phoenix that covers most of her lower back, required 3 1/2 hours under the needles and hurt so much she almost passed out. She also has a tiny black kitten on her stomach and the Gemini zodiac symbol (she's a Scorpio - that one was an early mistake and she's getting it fixed). She wants to get some more to reflect her love of Jungle music.

The giggly beauty lives at home with her mother, 11-year-old sister Rasheeda, two dogs, a chameleon, guinea pigs, birds, chinchillas and two tanks of tropical fish. Her plan to become a veteranarian fell through -- "I'm ridiculously bad at chemistry and math-type things," she says -- and now she plans to go on to law school and specialize in environmental law or animal rights.

"I know whatever I have to do, it has to involve animals in some way. Even if it's just being one of those TV hosts who goes around and plays with animals. That would be OK too."

She recently had a co-starring role in the Toronto-shot pilot for an MTV series called The New Girl about private school students. Smith expects to find out this month whether the series has a green light.

"That would be so great. I'd be so happy," she said. "That would be very cool. Sometimes I imagine myself presenting an award at the MTV Awards. That's what I want to do."

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