As Gregory Smith crosses the Warner Bros. lot on his way to lunch in the dining room, he mentions how his photo hangs on the wall of a nearby fast-food restaurant.
It’s a relic from the days when he was living with his mom in one of the rental complexes in this Burbank neighborhood, favored by kid actors who occasionally snagged a TV or movie role.
Back then, Smith insists, he wore glasses “the size of Coke bottles, with my hair sticking up like Alfalfa.”
Now the actor, who stars as 16-year-old Ephram Brown on the WB’s “Everwood” (9 p.m. ET Mondays), has teen-idol looks — aqua-gray eyes no longer hidden by specs and, on this day, a hint of stubble on his chin. He’s 20, although he believes “people still think I’m 12 when they look at me.”
He began working in commercials as a toddler (“way before I was aware of it”) then graduated to acting, racking up some solid movie credits. He was best friend Sport in 1996’s “Harriet the Spy,” and the toymaker’s son in 1998’s “Small Soldiers.” In 2000 he played Mel Gibson’s younger son, Thomas, killed by redcoats in “The Patriot.”
But it was his work in the independent 1998 movie “The Climb,” as a young boy taunted for his father’s lack of patriotism, which first brought him to “Everwood” executive producer Mickey Liddell’s attention.
“I just thought ’This kid is incredible!”’ says Liddell, who met Smith at that time and recognized him later when he auditioned for the role of the decent, somewhat rebellious teen in the WB drama.
“He told me I didn’t do a very good first audition ... but because he remembered me, he gave me a call back,” Smith concedes.
After the callback, Smith was able to convince the network he was right for the part.
Complex shadings“He’s come through for us in so many ways,” Liddell says. “He’s made the character himself, and added so much vulnerability and anger, all the great complex shadings that are in teenagers.”
Barely beyond his teen years, Smith says with a grin: “It reminds me a lot of me, four, five years ago — all that moody, unrequited love that has been an occurring theme in my life!”
The series stars Treat Williams as Dr. Andrew Brown, a single dad who, after his wife’s death, moves with his kids from New York to a small Colorado town. Father and son are often in conflict as they struggle to make up for the years when the doctor was more wrapped up in his career than his family.
In real life, Smith admires Williams, and was thrilled to have recently flown with the experienced pilot in his vintage plane.
New episodes of the second season of “Everwood” began airing last week, picking up on the story line of teenage Brown dating his little sister’s 20-year-old baby sitter, Madison Kellner (Sarah Lancaster).
Smith is amused that the producers may have embellished on something that happened in his real life: “I actually dated this girl about a year ago who was my little sister’s baby sitter, so I went ’All right, guys, come on, where are you coming up with this idea!”’