Street paper vendor lands role in hit US TV series Nashville

Interview by Skip Anderson, The Contributor

Tim Smith, a vendor for The Contributor in Tennessee, has landed a role in the hit America TV drama, Nashville. He speaks to the paper’s editor-in-chief Skip Anderson about working with Ron Howard in his younger days, and how his uncle – a former TV star himself – helped him bag an speaking role in the popular TV show, which has close connections with Nashville’s street paper.

Photo: Skip Anderson

Where are you from?

I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana.

I understand that you have some famous forebears.

I’ve got two in my family. I’m a descendent of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, and my uncle on my dad’s side is Hal Smith, who played ‘Otis’ on The Andy Griffith Show. His real name is Halburt, but everybody just called him Hal. When I was a kid, we used to go on the set in Mount Airy, North Carolina, when they were filming the show.

What do you remember about being on the set?

I got to meet the actress who played Aunt Bea, Don Knotts, and Andy Griffith. Don Knotts was a little stuck up. But Andy Griffith was one of the sweetest persons you could hope to meet. It was neat to be on the back lot with the kids when the adults were filming. I played stickball with Ronny Howard. If you look in some of the classroom scenes with Helen Crump teaching, I was one of the kids in the background.

What was Ron Howard like?

He was cool. He and all the other kids were nice. I don’t remember a lot of their names, but he and Clint, his brother, were eager to learn their lines. I will say this much, the adults were cool with the kids if they forgot a line and they would suggest ways for the kids to remember their lines. It was neat to watch the adults interact with them. And Andy was great with all the kids. You could just tell that he was the glue that bound that close-knit family of cast and crew together.

Do you have other TV experience?

Well, I’m going to act in four episodes of the TV show Nashville next season. I play Deacon’s sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. We start filming in late July/early August. I have the script and I’m learning my lines. But, being a little older, my memory isn’t so good. But I’m kinda excited about it. I feel like I’m following in my Uncle Hal’s footsteps.

Wow! How did you get that gig?

I’ve done some work as an extra on some of the shows, and when Connie Britton found out that I was Hal Smith’s nephew, she and the fella who plays Deacon [Charles Esten] introduced me to the producers. They gave me a screen test, and eventually they gave me the job and a script.

Hayden Panettiere & Connie Britton in Nashville

That show has used several Contributor vendors as extras in the past. And an actor portrayed a down-and-out songwriter who was selling The Contributor as he staged his comeback. But this may be the first time one of our vendors has had an actual part to play with lines. Do they know that you sell The Contributor?

They do, now! The producers and a lot of the actors are big supporters of The Contributor. They support that the paper gives people experiencing poverty an opportunity to make enough money to survive on. Nobody gets rich doing this, but we can at least get by.

Until your acting career takes off, right?

Right. Exactly. These four episodes might open a new chapter for me. I couldn’t make it as a country music singer, so let’s see if I can make it as an actor.

How are you related to Nathan Bedford Forrest?

Well, I don’t want to talk too much about that, because I don’t want people to associate me with the Ku Klux Klan and the Confederacy and all that. I have built up a good clientele of customers, and I don’t want them to get the wrong idea about me.

Anything else you’d like to talk about?

I like that I’m playing the part of a sponsor on Nashville, especially since two days from today I’ll be six-years sober.

Congratulations, that’s great!

Thank you. It was a hard road, but I got there through the support of my friends, my church, and my friends at The Contributor.