Alaina Huffman is an actor and mother of four living and working in Los Angeles and Vancouver. She co-starred with Louis Ferreira in the series Stargate Universe.
AN INTERVIEW WITH ALAINA HUFFMAN
Louis introduces Alaina:
LF – Ladies and gentlemen, meet my buddy Alaina Huffman. TJ for you, for those of you who are Stargate Universe folk. She was also very well known for Supernatural and Smallville. I cannot say enough about this beautiful woman who is just someone who inspires me. She is an artist in every way, as well as being a full-time mom. I’m always humbled by her because she just is a person with so much drive and so much passion, and is doing the work and is amidst the work, the kind of work that we talk about a lot of times, whether it be The Four Agreements, or The Mastery of Love, or just the kind of spiritual work we do together.
She’s like my younger sister. I’m so grateful for our relationship, it’s a blessed relationship, we feel like we have each other’s backs. Certainly we can relate to a lot of the challenges of being in the business, the challenges of the difference between being an actor in Canada or an actor in America, these are all things that we can support each other on.
What she just navigates beautifully is what I would call the “journeyness”, we’re fighters. As I get older, I realize more and more how courageous it is, and kind of insane, to choose to become an actor. So I’ve gained so much respect for people who have made that decision and that choice for themselves because I know it comes from a deep place of yearning for, and courage in themselves, and wanting to have their artistic expression fulfilled. So, I can’t say enough about this beautiful woman and I am sure you guys are going to enjoy getting to know her.
FF – Hi Alaina, it’s such a pleasure to be talking to you today. Welcome to Ferreira Fest!
AH – Hi! Thank you. I’m so excited.
FF – Well, let’s start with something really basic. So, who is Alaina, and what gets you up in the morning?
AH – Oh, well, my four alarm clocks – I have four children. They don’t let me not get up! But, I’m a single mom, I’m an actor. I started my career quite young, I started when I was about twelve. I was a model and I traveled a lot around the world. And I’ve always been, I guess, driven and motivated. So, I don’t need much help finding motivation. Although I go through phases in my life where I’m feeling a little low, but, yeah, it’s really just creating my best life.
I’m actually in the middle of doing The Artist’s Way right now. I’ve never done it, but I’ve always wanted to do it, I have a lot of friends who’ve done it, and I’m actually quite surprised that it’s pretty much the way I live, so I’m very thrilled with that. It’s about creating your best life and doing exactly what you want in life and reflecting on that, and that’s what I do.
FF – And what a perfect outcome that is already. So, it’s working.
AH – Yeah.
FF – You mentioned you started acting around age twelve.
What made you decide to go into this profession, which is probably one of the hardest jobs in the world that you can pick, given all the incredible demands it makes on your life and your time, but why become an actor?
AH – Great question. I don’t know. That’s a question I get a lot and I honestly, I don’t have a recollection of when or how or why. I did some children’s theater. We were living in Ontario, where I grew up, and I would find plays and I would find auditions, and I’d ask my mom to drive me to them. And I would do that, you know, a lot people go, well, your parents must have put you in it. No, nothing like that. Everything I did in my career I did completely on my own. I did have support from them and they helped me get to and from places.
But the first TV show I did was a series, I just shot the pilot, and the same thing, I read about it in the newspaper. We were living in Vancouver, we’d moved from Ontario back to Vancouver, and it was over the summer so I had no friends, because we moved from a different province. And I read about this audition in the newspaper. And I had done some children’s theater. And I wound up in this massive cattle call and I got one of the eight parts on the show.
FF – Oh my goodness, wow!
AH – Yeah. And I had no idea what I was doing. We shot the pilot, then I did another pilot a few months later. And, a few months after that, I was scouted in a shopping mall as a model, and a model scout approached me and gave me her card and I went home and I told my parents about it. We called them and a few months later I was living in Tokyo. Everything sort of happened. I kind of decide I want to do something and I do it.
FF – Yeah. Oh, that’s awesome. It just all fell into place for you in that way.
AH – Yeah. I mean, not without effort.
FF – Yeah. For sure.
AH – But yeah, for sure. I mean, I’m actually on another endeavor right now and it’s one of those things that’s, I’ve reflected, I’ve been doing a lot of writing about this, like journaling, because I’m way out of my depth. I want to start directing. And I’m thinking to myself, why? What am I thinking? It’s also a very challenging career.
FF – Right. Especially as a woman in this day and age.
AH – Well, actually now is the best time for that.
FF – Right.
AH – I mean there’s such a spotlight, a literal spotlight on female representation in the film business. So, I actually feel like it’s a great time, but yes it’s definitely got its challenges.
FF – It’s a tough business.
AH – Yeah, but, you know, it’s one of those things, it sort of manifested. I’ve put it into the ether and I’ve got a little script that I’m developing and I’ve got mentors that I pull from, and one person makes this recommendation and the next person this one and before you know it you’re doing a thing and you’re like, how did I get here?
FF – Right!
FF – Now, you just mentioned one of our key words, mentors. Who was maybe a person that really helped you along the way that you could go to for advice, or that really showed you the ropes or maybe kept you from making a big mistake? Who were your mentors along the way?
AH – I have a lot. There’s no shame in my game. I will call anybody and everybody, I mean, people I trust. It depends on the situation.
One of my dear friends, who was on Universe with us is Ming Na. And I respect Ming greatly as a friend, as a peer, but also as someone who has been in the industry twenty years longer than me. And so I will call her sometimes and be like, hey listen, here’s the situation, what are your thoughts?
And she’s been a great sounding board.
Louis’ affectionate nickname, for most of us, is Papa Smurf.
FF – Yes!
AH – He’s Papa Smurf to everybody. And so, I got my Papa Smurf I call regularly. Some of my friends joke that I have too many best friends, that I like to collect people.
FF – Right.
AH – People are important. So I have a lot of friends.
FF – It’s good to have a network. It really is good to have a network.
AH – Yeah, it is. And, you know, particularly with mentorship, in a field of your interest, that you want to work in, there can be the line where you want to keep professional. But at the same time, we are human and I feel like when you are vulnerable and you can share things that are going on in your life that’s when you really get to know somebody. That’s when you can get the best advice from people.
FF – Right.
AH – Louis, Ming, David Blue is a really good friend of mine, we talk about everything. We have made a really nice connection on Stargate, actually, years later we still are very, very close. I just did an interview for the twenty-year reunion, MGM is doing something called Dialing the Gate and Chris Judge is hosting and we just did a bunch of interviews and the rest of the cast, Atlantis and SG1, a lot of us get along as well and communicate on a regular basis. So, it’s really nice, it’s created a nice little network.
FF – Wonderful. Now, how do you balance being a single mom with four kids with the high demands of being an actor?
AH – It’s not without its difficulty. You know, even when I was married, people would be like, god, it must be so hard to have all those kids, and say stuff, and it is, it’s not without its challenges but honestly a lot of our work is very demanding for a period of time, and then it’s very vacant. I have so many friends that are in this business, of course. In the outside world you don’t really understand that there’s a lot of down time. And it seems like we all are living the dream. But it can be lonely. A lot of times it can be isolating.
For example, shooting a show like Stargate. All of us moved to Vancouver from Los Angeles. So we’re all in this other city, which is beautiful, and it’s got its parts and everything, but it’s not your home.
FF – Right.
AH – And you’re there for nine months of the year and you work fourteen hours a day and then at the end of it you go home for three months. And you may, or you may not, go back to work. And, it’s a roller coaster. And so I’ve always said my kids, my family life, balances that for me. That gives me stability. It’s the perfect distraction from my career. I can put my efforts and my energy and my focus into my kids, into my life. And my work is a beautiful balance and distraction from my mundane, normal life.
So, there’s logistical challenges. I have help, I get help when I need it, like everybody who works.
FF – Right.
AH – And this is a very normal conversation in our family, for example. Like a lot of times I’ll have to go away for a convention, or for a few days of shooting, and I’ll drop my kids off at school knowing that there’s a car waiting back at my house to take me to the airport, and I always try to schedule my flights so that I can take my kids to school, or get home in time to pick them up, whenever possible.
FF – Right, right.
AH – A lot of times I drop my kids off at a school, and it doesn’t happen a ton, but a few times a year, and, “okay, guys, I’m going to be back in six days. Maria’s going to pick you up and then Grandma’s going to come for the weekend and then blahblahblah…” we have to have a discussion, and the older my kids get, the more that they’ve lived this life, they understand. And at one time my son said to me, my daughter was upset about it, he was like, “You know what, mom sometimes goes away for four or five days for work, but when she’s home she drops us off, she picks us up, she takes us to everything.” I’m a full-time stay-at-home mom.
FF – Yes. That’s nice. It’s good when you have cooperative kids about that.
AH – Yeah, I mean, it’s not without its conversations and communication, like any relationship, I have to communicate with my kids. I have to have very real conversations. One of the things that I started very early on with my kids… the first series I did was called Painkiller Jane, and they made a little bit of a stink about me having kids, to the point where they didn’t want to give me the job. And I thought it was so weird, I was twenty-six and I had two kids, and that was weird for Hollywood but I thought it was very normal for the rest of the world.
And the notes came back from the network, they were like, “Well, they’re worried that you have kids.” And I was like, “What are they worried about?” I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t understand why they’d be worried. They’re like, “Well, they’re worried you might not be able to show up at work.” And I was like, “You mean the person who has to work to provide for their children wouldn’t show up for work?”
FF – Really, yeah.
AH – It’s such a mental confusion. I’d be worried about the spoiled actor who has no responsibilities and can do whatever they want. In fact those are the ones that cause all the problems.
FF – Exactly. Exactly.
AH – Usually the mom is the responsible one.
FF – Yeah. They know what responsibility is.
AH – Yes, yes, for sure. And you become a de facto set mom too. You’re a mom to everybody.
FF – Yeah.
AH – Then after that show I did another show where I did a three part mini-series. And I went in for the interview with the producer and I did not mention I had kids because I was afraid of the backlash of it. And so they called me, I was in the meeting, they called me an hour later and I’m still sitting in traffic trying to get home, and they made me an offer. And it was a Wednesday and they said “We need to know if you’re going to accept the offer because you need to go to go to Turkey on Friday.” And I was like, um… for six weeks.
And I thought, oh, crap, I have two little kids, and I called my husband and I was like, “I don’t know what to do.” He goes, “Just don’t worry about it, we’ll figure it out.” And I went, and I was in Turkey for forty-six days.
FF – Oh, wow.
AH – And of that forty-six days I worked twenty days. And I was in the most historic place in the world and I had so much time off and I stayed in this beautiful hotel, and everything was paid for and I was like, “I’m never doing this again. My kids are coming everywhere with me.”
FF – Right, right.
AH – So that’s kind of what I’ve done. Whenever I have something, I don’t always take everybody, but I do what’s called Mommy Trips. So, a four day trip to London, one of my kids comes with me. And when I’m working they have a book to read or something to do, and then when we have off time we go see museums and all that stuff.
FF – Oh, that’s wonderful that you can combine the two. That’s great. Must be a thrill for the kids as well.
AH – And it’s not without its efforts. Like I remember having this conversation with my son in Amsterdam, he was being a brat. We’d just come from Oslo, Norway, we took a little side trip to Amsterdam, and we’re waiting outside the Anne Frank house and he was being a jerk. And I was like, “Look, I traded in my first class ticket, all of the perks of having a little vacation to myself, I could have spent four days in Amsterdam by myself, I brought you because it’s important to me. It’s important that we have this time together, it’s important that you get to see the world, I feel really blessed that we have this opportunity, and I want you to understand that, and I recognize there’s no way you could understand that right now but I want you to hear this.”
And we went into the Anne Frank house and we walked around and he was like, “Mom, this is amazing. She was here. I read that book.” Then we went to the Van Gogh Museum and he was like, “Oh, that’s the time he cut his ear off!” And, you know, he got it. He was like, “Oh, I get it. I’m sorry. I’m tired.” I’m like, “Yeah, me too. Let’s go have a nap.”
FF – That sounds wonderful.
AH – So, yeah, it’s not without its complications for sure.
FF – So, you’ve talked about a couple of things you’ve done, you’ve done a wide range of shows, but what’s the role that you’re personally most proud of? Where everything just came together for you, acting-wise?
AH – Oh, you know, that’s funny, I get that question a lot, usually a little simpler question like what’s your favorite character. And I always say, it’s like choosing your favorite kid. You can’t really choose.
FF – Gotcha.
AH – But I will say, the characters that I’ve played that have played a significant role in my life, and that have made an impact in my lifestyle, in the ability I have to travel all over the world and to get more work because of these works are T.J. on Stargate, The Black Canary who I played on Smallville, and Abaddon who I played on Supernatural. The characters are so vastly different, but the one thing that runs through all of them is strengths in their vulnerability. Strength in the ability they have to be honest with themselves. And that, to me, was the easiest part.
T.J. really taught me a lot, she’s one of my favorites. She taught me a lot about being a strong woman. And she used to bother me. I tell this story a lot. I used to get irritated when I read the scripts. I was like, “This chick is always complaining. She’s always whining. She doesn’t know what she’s doing, ever, it’s annoying. Just do it.” And yet I learned that she was okay to say she didn’t know and she needed help. And that she was willing to accept help. And that taught me, personally, a lot.
FF – That’s great.
AH – She’s very, very special to me, T.J.
FF – How did you develop her character? Is she modeled after someone you know? Or is there Alaina in T.J.? How did that come about?
AH – Yeah, always. I think there’s always an element of yourself that goes through the character. I don’t know.
I don’t have a particular method, I don’t really try to create a character, I let them create themselves. I know it sounds silly, artsy-fartsy, but as you discover things about characters, and as writers write they tend to have an intention. And then when they meet an actor, or a vessel, I feel like it’s such a beautiful collaboration where they recognize your strengths as a person, the actor, and they can write to those strengths in the character. And vice versa, you can recognize those pieces of you that are in the character’s life experience.
What drives me insane about Hollywood is ageism. The most beautiful, amazing, dynamic people I know are women between thirty-five and say fifty. And in Hollywood they don’t really exist.
FF – They don’t exist, exactly.
AH – It’s like they don’t have a story to tell. And they have the story to tell. They have all the stories. You know, they’re matriarchs of families, they have all of these stories and it’s like they don’t exist. So, you’re left with these shallow characters that don’t have a lot of relevance until you’re an old woman, and then they are like, “Oh, she’s got a story to tell.”
FF – Yes.
AH – But all of those stories came from this period of time.
FF – Right. Right. So, that awkward middle age for Hollywood, yeah.
AH – Yes. It’s fascinating to me. And again, these are the most beautiful, dynamic, fun, charismatic women that I know, you know?
FF – Yeah.
AH – So, it’s a tough one.
FF – Since we’re talking about Stargate Universe a little bit right now as well, what was it like for you to work with another veteran actor, such as Louis, and others that worked on the show? What’s it like to work with really experienced people, as well as novices, because there were also very young actors there?
AH – We had a great group of people. I tend not to see that range. There’s a certain amount of confidence that comes along with experience, of course.
FF – Yes.
AH – There also, and this is not representative on Universe at all, I’m not reflecting on it, but just in life there also, as the more experienced you get, sometimes, and I find this with myself, you lack the passion. And so, to have the less experienced people on the set that are there because they’re excited. They love it. It’s what they live for. It’s a really beautiful balance. And we did have that on Universe. To work with someone like Louis, who’s done twenty-five TV series, the level of comfort that he has in his own skin…
I wish the show would have gone longer. We were talking, sorry, I’m all over the place, we were talking about this yesterday, on Saturday, when I did an interview with Chris, we talked about Universe and how it was so dynamic.
It had so many great characters, the ship was a character. And, I was a little nostalgic and I was like, “Gosh, that was a really great show.”
And I wish it had gone on longer, because then we’d have the experience to meet fans, like the convention world. I wish that people understood how fun and free-loving Louis is. Every time you’d call cut, he’s out there cracking jokes, making everyone laugh.
But the show was dark. It had a lot of depth and it had a lot of despair and we didn’t get, we were getting around to everyone’s personality, but it was going to take some time. And I just wish the show had a little time to breathe and find that.
FF – So, what I heard from other people that have worked on the show, they all had mentioned that they have so many good memories in just working with everybody. Can you recall a particular instance where you remember you had a really good time, or something really funny happened?
AH – Oh, I mean, there’s so, so many…
FF – Countless.
AH – You know, Peter Kelamis is a standup comedian.
FF – Right.
AH – And, so literally, we had these cast chairs set outside the stages and we’d go in and we’d block a shot and we’d have to, usually if it was like in the Gateroom or the mess hall there’s all of us in there, so there’s probably twenty, or so, actors. They’d have these twenty actors set up in this sort of circle, and we’d go in, we’d block a shot… we’d have an hour. Well, on a lot of shows, actors will go back to their trailer, they’ll go on their phone, or whatever.
We would come back to this circle and sit and just talk and generally Louis or Peter or Patrick or someone was like entertaining us with jokes. I mean, it was just so fun.
FF – Yeah.
AH – Probably one of my favorite stories, and I’m sure this one has been told a lot, but, when we shot the pilot, if you remember, Colonel Young gets blasted through the wormhole.
FF – Right.
AH – And he’s unconscious for three episodes. And T.J.’s looking at him, hovered over him warily for three episodes. And so, Louis and I really, really got to know each other during that time, and he got a fart machine from the props department, and so in between takes, when he wasn’t lying on the floor unconscious and didn’t have to remember his lines, he would… we’d just walk around and just be in a regular conversation, and of course, remember that it was the pilot, so nobody knows each other. Some of the crew all had worked together on SG1 and Atlantis, or for the most part, but no one knew the group of actors.
And so, we’re all, “It’s a new world,” and we’d just be talking to people and he’d make these fart noises. And just like, some people would be, “It must be Canadian because they’re all being so polite.” You could see their face. And then, my favorite was just Jamil, Jamil’s the only one, he’s like, “Man, you’re nasty!”
FF – I can just hear him say that, too. Oh, that’s hilarious!
AH – It was fun.
FF – So, Alaina, what’s next for you? What’s your next big project?
AH – Oh, well, I guess, the last two years, personally, have been a bit of a roller coaster. I’ve really just been spending a lot of time focusing on my family. And so, I’ve actually taken a little bit of time off.
FF – Oh, good for you.
AH – And it’s nice. For the first time in my life I don’t feel weird about that. I feel like, oh, this is necessary. Hollywood’s not going anywhere. Scripts are being written. And more so now for women my age.
So, I just finished a movie, it’s called Perfect Match. I shot it in Winnipeg. I’m not entirely sure where it’s going to be airing, I believe it’s Lifetime. I’ll have to double check on that but I’m sure it will be available on Netflix.
FF – Okay.
AH – And I’ll be promoting it on my Twitter when it does come out. I’ve been very fortunate to be inducted into the Supernatural family. I had a character on there for a couple of seasons and it’s taken me all over the world to meet fans because they’ve got, like Stargate, a very passionate, devoted fan base. It’s been a wonderful experience.
They are doing a spinoff. Yeah, they’ve just shot the spinoff, called Wayward Daughters. So, I’m working my jelly, I have no affiliation with them whatsoever, but it would be really neat to support that and to be involved in some capacity. As in, like I said, I want to start directing.
So, I’m looking for projects to direct. One of my mentors, as a director, is James Bamford. “Bam Bam” from our Stargate family. So, he’s been wonderful.
He’s now over on Arrow, he’s a producer on Arrow, he’s directed a bunch. He’s been mentoring me for the last year or so. And, so I’m hoping to do a little more shadowing this year. I’m trying to get on directors’ books to shadow them, which is to follow them around, ask silly questions and learn a lot.
So, I’ve been doing that for the last year.
I shadowed Phil Sgriccia around Supernatural, and the film I just did I spent a lot of time picking the director’s brain, so…
FF – That’s great.
AH – I’m in education mode right now.
FF – Oh that’s wonderful. It’s a good place to be in life, always learning. That’s great. So, now, you mentioned your Twitter account. Is that a good way for people to keep in touch with you and to keep tabs on what you’re doing?
AH – Yeah, always. Twitter for sure, it’s @AlainaHuffman, and I’m on Instagram, also @AlainaHuffman.
FF– We’re almost done here but I have one more question. If you could describe Louis in four words, what would they be?
AH – Okay. Well, the first… he’s funny, he’s loving, he’s genuine… I want to find the right word, perfect for Papa…he’s Papa Smurf. There you go, Papa Smurf.
FF – He’s Papa Smurf.
AH – He just needs one word, he is Papa Smurf, he really is loving and fun and genuine.
I see him a few times a week. We used to work out together all the time in L.A., and now that we’re both in Vancouver we spend a lot of time together in Vancouver.
We randomly have coffees or I’ll call him if I have an audition and we get together and practice that.
I absolutely adore Louis, he’s one of my best, best friends and I’m so grateful that he’s in my life.
FF – Well, this is all I have for you today. So, thank you so much, Alaina, for spending some time with us and sharing your thoughts and your plans.
AH – Great, thanks Bea.
FF – All right, bye-bye.
AH – Bye.
Transcript by Casey.
All photos courtesy of Alaina Huffman.
Keep Up With Alaina!
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Visit her website bambilain.com
Find her filmography on IMDb