Matt Smith is praying. The waiter at DJ's, an Old Town Scottsdale bar that serves darn good burgers and even better kamikazes, has just dropped off Smith's chicken sandwich, and now -- like every good Catholic boy -- he's bowing his head and clasping his hands and muttering quietly to himself. I try to eavesdrop: Is Smith thanking God for the season he spent as a recent cast member of MTV's The Real World? Is he maybe asking for a cool endorsement deal, or a guest spot on The Osbournes?
In fact, the always-decorous Smith is merely thanking God for this white-meat-on-sourdough sandwich and side of fries. After he crosses himself, he dives in and, around mouthfuls of chicken breast, tells me about life as a reality TV idol and his post-Real World role as a spokesperson for Life Teen, a Catholic youth organization.
New Times: How'd you go from cable network television stardom to Christian teen talking head in Phoenix?
Matt Smith: After The Real World, I went back to Georgia Tech and got my degree in industrial design, moved to New York City and then moved here on September 10. A lot of Real Worlders travel and speak at universities, so I took a job as a spokesperson for Life Teen, which is based out of Mesa. My goal is to do whatever I can do to help the most people.
NT: Your nickname is Supafly.
Smith: Supafly! One day, when I was a junior in high school in rural northeast Georgia in Appalachia, I wore a pair of leather pants to school. And my trig teacher said, "Hey, Supafly!" I had never heard of blaxploitation films or anything of that nature, but I liked the name, and since then it's kinda stuck. After college, it was the only name I had.
NT: But on The Real World, everyone called you Matt.
Smith: On The Real World, where every character is quietly jockeying for the lead role, having a name like Tech or Cyrus or Supafly just rushes you to the front of the viewer's attention. My roommates on the show weren't interested in humoring me with a sensational nickname that would exalt me above the rest. They were content with the good old Eurocentric "Matt." I was still called Supafly, but you didn't hear that name in the show.
NT: The Real World Web site describes you as a "straight-edge religious hipster who loves graffiti art, break-dancing, hip-hop culture and customizing his souped-up Honda." That's kind of a goofy combination.
Smith: My faith is who I am; everything else is my interests. Do I still spray [paint graffiti]? No. Do I still have my low-rider bicycle? Do I still break-dance? Yes. But my faith is consistent; it always has been. It's my reason for existing every morning when I wake up. I've been banging through nightclubs since I was 16 years old; that hasn't stopped. Just because I'm not taking the hot chicks home to my sheets doesn't mean that I'm not having a good time.
NT: Still, a Catholic spokesperson who's banging through nightclubs. With pierced ears! What would the Pope say?
Smith: So many Christians retreat from pop culture, and from experiencing the world, because they get criticized by people who aren't Christians and who don't understand. In the gospel it says to be in the world but not of it. I have so much fun it's almost embarrassing, but it doesn't mean that I'm causing trouble or sinning or anything else.
NT: After The Real World, you became an instant celebrity.
Smith: I couldn't believe it. I watched the first show the night it aired, and I walked outside and the girls in the condo next door said, "Hello, Matt."
NT: Speaking of girls, Julie, the Mormon girl on the show, wanted in your pants.
Smith: A lot was made of that, but there just wasn't a natural chemistry between us. There was an expected chemistry between us, but much to the dismay of the producers, nothing happened. Because on The Real World, they strive for high drama. It's how you get 10 million viewers rooting for the two virgins to hop in bed. She's still a good friend of mine, but it just didn't happen. And that's been the case with every other girl I've met. It happens all the time. It will happen again tonight when I go out, only the thing with Julie was captured on television.
NT: So a lot of the stuff on The Real World isn't all that real after all.
Smith: It's a tragedy that, when they edited each episode, the only parts of each of us that made it were the parts of us that relate to drama. You never knew about the heartfelt conversations that brought me and my roommates to tears, because they weren't tinged with drama, the kind of drama where you're throwing tables and chairs. If they weren't tinged with drama or sexuality, they never made it into the edited version.
NT: How much of the Matt from the show was really you?
Smith: Well, a lot of people say to me, "Oh, it's so cute that you were so quiet and shy on the show." I'm the least quiet and shy person I've ever met, but that's how I turned out in the edit. I tried, while I was on the show, to keep it real, to make a conscious effort to be who I am, because the camera affects your reality, the way you behave, and the way others behave around you.
NT: What else didn't make it on the air?
Smith: Ah, this is where it all comes down, huh? I can talk your ear off on this subject. Where do you want to start?
NT: Well, I was surprised to discover that The Real World cast could drag people home and have sex with them.
Smith: If you were on The Real World, having sex with anyone in New Orleans was easier than getting a free meal. Nothing could have prepared me for walking into a nightclub and having a dozen women pursue each of the guys from the show. It was funny, because they'd always start with Danny.
NT: The gay guy.
Smith: Right. I couldn't believe what people would do to be on television. The women who passed through the beds of our home, it was absolutely disgusting. It was horrible that they would become victims like that, and that they didn't have higher regard for themselves. I mean, what does that say about them?
NT: That they wanted to be on a reality TV show?
Smith: But a lot of those girls that ended up in David's bed became friends of mine. I sat and held so many girls and felt their tears on my shoulder, women who had been victimized, which you don't see on the finished show.
NT: There seems to be a certain profile to each show: the virgin, the gay guy, the cute blond chick from the sticks. So, which one were you?
Smith: I didn't fit a single profile. They could have cast me as the kid from the backwoods, or as the brainiac from Georgia Tech, or the virgin boy, or the Christian, or the white kid that likes black stuff. I'm not any of those; I'm all of those. Most of us were chosen either to provide sexual temptation or outright controversy or feuding. Just personalities clashing.
NT: Like when you confronted Danny about your belief that homosexuality is wrong.
Smith: What I told Danny -- and what I share with you -- is that the church's teaching on sexuality is that it's a gift that's about uniting in love and being open to creation. So any variation on that is a misuse of sexuality. That goes for contraception, masturbation or homosexual acts. Danny and I embraced this understanding, and he came to church with me several times; his boyfriend came with me several times, too. They're both great guys, and I love them. As I travel around, the most compassionate group I've talked to has been homosexual men and women. I'll be out in a nightclub, and some gay guy will come up to me and say, "I saw that part on your show where you talked about your beliefs about homosexuality. Thanks for clearing that all up."
NT: Thanks for clearing that all up. So, how do you get your hair to do that?
Smith: I use Freez-It 18-Hour Hold -- $3.99 at Rite-Aid. It's great, but you can cut yourself on my hair after it dries. I'm not one of those kids who uses wood glue or egg whites.
NT: So you travel the world, talking to Christian teens. How is that a segue from being on a hip, sexy cable TV show?
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Smith: It's pretty exciting. I'm booked every weekend for the next year and a half. I travel constantly, and I really get to see how big the real real world is. Also, the impact that that show has on young people, which can be scary. One of the most terrifying things I've had happen was meeting a 7-year-old girl in a grocery store who said, "I thought it was so funny when your roommate danced naked on The Real World." Until you experience that, you really don't understand the impact that television has on kids.
NT: Does it wreck your credibility that you spent all that time in the Real World hot tub?
Smith: Well, by the end of the show's run, I wouldn't get into that hot tub. Because, you know, there was so much chlorine in the Real World hot tub because of the brothels of women who skinny-dipped in there. It was the most nauseating thing to be in that hot tub. So staying out of it wasn't a matter of running from scandal, it was just nasty!