Tuesday nights, 10 p.m.
Actor and Indianapolis native Logan Huffman is 20. A check of the IMdB (Internet Movie Database) shows that his first credit was for the 2008 film, Lymelife. Less than three years and two TV movies later, he is one of the primary characters in V, the high-profile ABC TV series about what happens when supposedly benevolent – and suspiciously good-looking – aliens announce their arrival on Earth by parking their giant spaceships above every major city on the planet.
The current V is based on the hugely successful 1983 miniseries that led to a hugely successful 1984 miniseries sequel that led to a weekly TV series that came and went in one year. Of course, the benevolent alien "Visitors" have a dark agenda. They're not really good-looking either (at least not by Earthling standards). Beneath their attractive human disguises, they are reptiles. Scary, powerful reptiles.
Most of humanity accepts the Visitors at face value, but a resistance starts, with human rebels soon joined by alien dissidents. Logan Huffman plays the son of one of the leaders of the resistance. He soon begins dating a beautiful teenage girl Visitor who turns out to be the daughter of the smooth-talking leader of the alien forces.
Way to go, Logan! Three credits to your name, and you're smack in the middle of the action on a major TV series.
When I spoke to Huffman by phone, he was preparing to shoot the second batch of episodes for the series in Vancouver. V premiered last fall. The network ran four episodes, then put the show on hiatus until after the Winter Olympics. V just returned to the schedule, on Tuesday nights at 10, right after Lost. ABC is praying that the vast Lost audience decides to hop on the V bandwagon.
Not just another name on a tombstone
After congratulating Huffman on coming so far in a difficult business in a short time, I asked what got him started in acting. Was there a pivotal moment when he knew this is what he wanted to do?
"Um... yeah," said Huffman. "I remember when I was a kid, one time I went to the graveyard with my uncle when I was about 12 years-old and we looked at all the tombstones and I thought, 'these were good people ...' and at that time in my life it was really tough. I couldn't read. I thought I was probably gonna work at a McDonald's for the rest of my life. I looked at those tombstones and it kind of got to me. Nobody really comes and visits much. Just people wandering through graveyards... I just, I didn't want to be just another name on a forgotten tombstone. I think that was the big moment where I kind of decided... I don't care what I do, I just want to do something. Like at least let people know that, 'he was here and he did something.'"
So this 12-year-old with dyslexia made a decision and check him out now. "I am just as astounded as you, buddy," said Huffman with a chuckle.
The publicity for V has been intense, with Huffman featured prominently. Turn on ABC and his face is all over the place. How did Huffman react to all of that? "I just laughed. I mean I don't ... I take this seriously but in some ways I just... think it's funny. I don't know, I just laughed. I thought it was a pretty good job.
"When I do watch myself I always hate what I see. Because it always could be better, you know? I didn't connect to my character at first and now I'm finally starting to really like to hang out with him." Huffman explained that when you first meet his character, Tyler, he looks like he's got it all.
"He drives a motorcycle, he's 17 years-old, he's alright-looking and a bit of a loner. Some of that stuff I can connect to now, but at 17 years-old I was a far different creature than I am now. Some fans of the show hate my character and I don't blame them. But what they are gonna find out is that he is more human than what you think."
In the original V, the character closest in nature to Tyler is a teenager named Daniel, who joins forces with the aliens and turns against his family. Huffman acknowledges similarities between Daniel and Tyler, but makes it clear that they were both archetypes. He said, "This story has been told since the ancient Greeks, you know? In this kind of story there has to be the young man who sides with the dark forces. Does he redeem himself or does he die? It goes different ways. But I think my archetype is gonna evolve more than the archetype of the last show.
"All acting to me is controlled schizophrenia," he volunteered. "The way I act is through my nervous system, from a natural, visceral reaction to the circumstances. My soul is my own, but I let another ... you know, Tyler is a whole different guy. I like that I get to know him and hang out with him. It is gonna be a lot of fun to let him grow and see what happens to him."
Why did Huffman have such a terrible time finding his character? Because Tyler is cool, a youthful leading-man type, and Huffman couldn't connect with that. He stated that he was never that kind of guy. Looking back to his school days, he saw himself as "lanky-nerd," dismissed by many because of his learning disabilities.
Huffman remembers being in the 2nd grade, crying at his desk because of his learning difficulties and the way he was treated. "Everybody has their problems," he said. "And it takes a lot to hurt me. I cried every damn night before I went to school because I didn't want to go in the next day. Now old classmates contact me on Facebook, wanting to be my friend, some of the same people that snickered at me. But my thing is, after growing up like that, do you think I am afraid of walking into a room filled with 20 producers and the director and writer? I am not afraid of that."
Huffman spent time with his family in Indianapolis during the break in filming the series. I wondered how his friends handled his newfound fame when he came home. Without a hint of self-pity in his voice, he said, "I never really had too many friends. The way I look at it, the friends that are really truly friends - they know who they are and they were the ones that stood by me."
Hello reader, Ed here. I feel the need to stop at this point and underline the fact that interviews with actors rarely go like this one. More often than not, actors, especially young ones, respond to questions with a few well-rehearsed anecdotes, some quips and a lot of mumbling. Talking with Logan Huffman was a unique experience. The most striking thing was how matter-of-fact he was while recounting such personal information to a stranger. It was fascinating to listen to this remarkably open young man. He had been badly hurt and was talking about it. Not whining, not seeking reassurance, just talking. Now back to the interview.
Huffman continued, "You know, I never went to go learn how to be an actor. It was the only thing I was ever good at. I was good at not being myself. I don't like ... my whole thing is, I love actually escaping from being me. I don't have to be me, that is the best thing. It's a lovely thing not to be you. You know?"
This worried me. I didn't want to play counselor, but I was concerned about how Huffman looked at himself. I asked, "So how is it at this point? Do you like 'you' more now?"
He responded by rambling – talking about school, his mom. He said that while in grade school, he once told a teacher, "maybe someday I will write a book like this" only to have her reply, "Logan, you'll never be able to write a book like this." He talked about dyslexia, and how Indiana needs to better recognize the disorder.
Finally, he sort of addressed the question. "Well, I think I was about 16 when I came to terms with me, my humanity ... I look at myself as ... I'm a device, I'm a suit. You just feel these emotions, these pains, these loves, that's a natural reaction caused by my nerves and what I perceive by them."
I opt to spell out my concern with the "not being you" business more plainly and Huffman stammers, then says, "Don't worry about my safety or nothing. I like myself. I'm a good guy and I have a lot of plans for myself. It's all kinda goofy, but I think I know I'm worth something and I have a calling."
Huffman spoke of his Hoosier heritage, about the difference between Indiana men and those from other parts of the country. He contends that a Texan will tell you in a heartbeat where they're from, but Hoosier men are more subtle – solid fellows who love their mothers and are always ready to man-up, standing by their beliefs without being showy about it. Renaissance men who know a little about everything.
A little background is in order
Originally from Noblesville, Huffman's family now resides in Lawrence. He is one of a set of triplets. Huffman misses them, noting, "When I first was away from them, I kinda felt like one third myself, you know? I mean we function better as a group – we were a hell of a team before growing up and going all our own ways. But we talk to each other all the time." He revisited Noblesville just before leaving to resume filming V, driving to the town square in the middle of the night and stopping on Logan Street to reflect. "It's rumored that I was named after that street," said Huffman. "I don't think I was, but it's rumored." He also made a point of visiting Steak 'n Shake before departing. "They don't have those in New York or up in Canada, either. Yats is another great place – great Cajun food!" He has to be careful with his hometown food choices, though, because the job requires him to stay as skinny as possible, so he'll appear in fighting shape on camera.
While Huffman recognizes the need to travel elsewhere for his career, he hopes his fellow Hoosiers can build a bigger theatrical and film scene here, in part because "New York and LA honestly can't run things very well. They are not good at it. Indiana can. I mean, god-dang man, things would be so much more effective with a Midwestern sensibility!"
Are you Logan Huffman?
In the meantime, Logan Huffman deals with being a burgeoning TV star. "I was leaving the premiere of a buddy's movie and some girl comes along and says, 'excuse me, are you Logan Huffman?' and I say, 'yeah, did I meet you in an audition or something?' And she said, 'It might sound weird, but I IMdB'ed you after I saw you on TV last night.'" He laughed and added, "When it comes to people recognizing you, I am constantly confused because my reaction is: they know my name, so I should know their name. It leaves me at a loss about things.
"The funniest message I ever got on Facebook was from some random girl who said, 'for an unimportant reason I was at Marion County women's correctional facility last night. I just want you to know that when you came on the 6 o'clock news you were quite the talk of the jail that evening,' Just think, I'm quite a success with Marion County's finest offenders!"
Huffman's favorite recent memory? "I got a letter from a kid named Jim from California and he says that he thinks I am 'the best actor,' that he loves Tyler, he loves the show V and whenever him and his friends play V in the backyard he gets to be Tyler. Like any actor, I'm going to get my share of criticism, but that kid, Jim, he looks up to me and nothing anybody says will ever hurt me as long as I got that in my pocket."