He could be forgiven for having an identity crisis.
Braden Smith auditioned for Finn – thick by all accounts. But he ended up Freddy – a bit of a slob, more concerned about eating than appearances.
The real Braden is neither. The real Braden is a delightfully extroverted 13-year-old Year 9 student from Tauranga Boys College. “Yeah, people say I talk a lot.” They’re right in the nicest way. There’s a constant flow of thoughts and lines and observations. For Braden Smith, life is a performance.
And either as a slob or a bozo, Braden was absolutely delighted at the opportunity to be on national television before an audience of tens of thousands of kids every Sunday morning in the ‘What Now’ mini drama series called ‘Mysteryville.’
“My role is all about food and beating up burglars.” It was his second audition and his first major role.
“Think Mysteryville then think Scooby-Doo without the dog,” says Braden.
“I think my strength is comedy – a funny guy but I can be serious.” Barely a teenager and he has himself sussed. “I can mask myself with various emotions. I am very facial, but not overly dramatic because over- dramatic is for the theatre.”
Braden Smith always fancied himself as a builder, or perhaps in the navy or public relations until a time travelling scientist called Matt Smith redirected him. “I was watching Doctor Who on television and I decided I wanted to be like him. Since then I have always liked the idea of acting.”
But before he made it on the small screen, before he was confirmed in the role, he had to be discreet. “I could say I was doing a bit of filming but none of the detail. I was wandering around with a shaggy Freddy haircut and couldn’t explain it.” He got weird looks.
“But now, of course, everyone knows. It was like yeah! At school it was ‘good on ya mate’ and they wanted to know if I got paid when I was on TV.”
Does he get paid? And if so, how much? He tiptoes around the reporter’s impertinence by saying he does it more for the enjoyment of being in front of a camera. The young man is deceptive in his school uniform. “Yes I do get paid,” he answers politely. He had anticipated the question but it wouldn’t be answered directly.
“I actually enjoy the whole experience, I hover around a bit. I learned a bit about the cameras, had a go with one, did a bit of sound and helped out the lighting guys. “A young star who’s happy to be a grunt. He’s still grounded.
Is he intimidated by hot cameras? “If you don’t get worried or slightly nervous on set it means you don’t really care – so yes!”
He was surprised to get the role, very surprised. “My mouth dropped open, so I closed it with my hand and then it dropped open again. I was on my way to school and I was like, wow.” But he didn’t dwell, he got straight on to memorising his lines. “I think I am quite good at that. Also the lines before and after mine so I am not jumping in when someone’s talking or I create awkward pauses.”
If he’s not fazed by being on national television then he’s certainly not fazed by this latest experience. “This is my first ever interview. It’s quite fun.”
Fun for both of us because often when a reporter speaks to a teenager you have to surgically bleed responses. Then you just get a “good” or an “awesome” or an OMG”. But Braden Smith’s voluntarily offering up heaps of himself and even pre-empting the reporter’s questions. “What was my reaction?” he said a couple of times.
There’s a saying ‘you can tell a man by his handshake’. Braden’s broaching manhood but he’s got the handshake nailed. He cocks his shoulder and elbow, grabs and shakes. It’s an impressive statement for such a young man. You won’t forget an encounter with Braden Smith anytime soon.
Ten by 10-minute mini TV adventures on ‘What Now’ today and just perhaps a full-length movie down the track tomorrow. “Oh yes, I would like to, I would really like to. That would be a dream come true.”
His agent Tanya Horo of TMH Management sees that happening. “He has amazing energy and we are super-proud of this up-and-coming actor.”
He is infectious this young man and the sort you want to succeed, and sort you are sure will succeed. At whatever.
Braden Smith and ‘Mysteryville’ are on What Now, TV2 at 8am on Sunday mornings.