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A few years ago, the actor, who is a triplet, was restoring a 1956 Mercury at his family’s home in Indianapolis. The classic car caught the attention of his neighbors, including a voice and movement coach who encouraged Huffman to read some lines. “I always liked acting,” Huffman, 20, says, “but I thought the Marines were a more rational route.” But he forwent the service for Northern Illinois University’s Gately/Poole Acting Intensives. (James Gandolfini and Kristin Davis are alumni of the program.)
After graduation, Huffman headed for New York with the name and number of a manager referred to him by a teacher. “He taught me how to audition,” says Huffman of his manager. “That’s the hardest damn thing in this industry.”
Whatever Huffman did worked, and eventually Rosie O’Donnell cast him in her Lifetime movie “America,” about a teenager navigating the U.S. foster care system. The program was directed by Yves Simoneau, who took such a liking to Huffman that he cast him in his next assignment: a television series about extraterrestrials.
Based on the 1983 miniseries, “V” is about an alien race that comes to Earth under peaceful pretenses and slowly reveals its nefarious ways after infiltrating society. Huffman plays Tyler Evans, a high school kid who gains privileged information about the visitors because he dates a daughter of their high commander. “This season you’re going to find out why Tyler’s the way he is,” says Huffman. “How much pain he’s gone through and why he’s in the position he’s in. People assumed he was a little punk, mad at his mom, and you find out he has legitimate reasons. So I get to show some range.”
Indeed, Huffman isn’t interested in a one-note performance, nor is he prone to spending his career locked into beefcake status. His Hollywood role model? “I like Robert Mitchum.”