The truth has set Daniel Newman free.
The actor—who plays Daniel, a member of The Kingdom on AMC's The Walking Dead—came out as gay on Twitter Thursday. "I'm #OUTandPROUD #LGBT. Love you guys. Be proud to be yourself," he wrote. "We need everyone just the way you are! I'll chat with you guys tonight."
After receiving widespread support via social media, he filmed a video and explained it was "just time" to share the news publicly. While volunteering at a center for homeless youth, the 35-year-old actor—who's appeared in episodes of Heroes, Homeland, One Tree Hill and The Vampire Diaries—said a woman thanked him for supporting the LGBTQ community, presuming he was straight. Newman corrected her, but even so, he admitted, "It hit me like a gut punch. It felt like someone knocked the wind out from me."
"I realized how important it is in this day and age to be visible," he said, "to let people who know you are."
Newman hopes sharing his story will give others courage to do the same—including those in the public eye who might be afraid to come out. "When you're accomplishing incredible things and you're hiding who you are," he explained, "you're hurting hundreds of millions of people."
The actor also spoke to People Friday about his decision to tell his truth. "I don't want to be hidden and have to dodge the question," Newman told the magazine. "I'm proud of who I am."
Newman, like many members the LGBTQ community, kept his sexual orientation a secret during his formative years. "I grew up in a very conservative southern Georgia home, and it didn't really matter what your sexuality was—it just wasn't open conversation. It was always, 'Don't talk about your private life,' so I was so used to that," he said. While he wasn't ashamed of his identity, he said, "I didn't really think about it really as hiding. I never thought of myself as being in a closet or hidden. It just was that I didn't really feel like talking about my private life."
Today, Newman is proud to say he has an "incredible" boyfriend. "He's amazing. So, yeah, I'm gay. I think it's really important in our culture, at this time, that everybody is just honest about who they are. It's such an amazing community and it doesn't make sense to hide who you are."