Alaina Huffman Phoenix Fan Fest Q & A Panel 2015
Known to Geeks for her roles as Dinah Lance/Black Canary in ‘Smallville’,
1st Lt. Tamara Johansen in Stargate: Universe,
and Abaddon/Josie Sands in Supernatural,
Ms. Huffman cheerfully entered the hall and commented about how cold it was, not only in Arizona, but also in the hall. With that we all dove into the questions.
“I love the Black Canary”, Alaina stated as she described the process leading to her getting the role. She did not know the role ahead of time, and even after getting the part she didn’t know until a few days later who she would play. Alaina admits to googling Black Canary (much like I had to,) with her first thought being “I didn’t know who the Black Canary was, and my second thought was ‘I have to wear that’? I’ve had children. They’re very small pants”.
She read several of the comics and gained a love for the Black Canary. Alaina is very happy that the character is popular and being portrayed by other actors, since the Black Canary has been portrayed in multiple ways in the comics. Working with UK based Tony Lee a few years ago, via MTV’s site ‘Geek’, Alaina did an original comic called ‘Agent Mom’. She described it as a fun ‘Alias’ meets ‘Chuck’ type of graphic novel. Finding the project very fulfilling and fun, she would like to do more projects like that.
She just finished a movie called ‘Amber Alert’, which will air on Lifetime. Alaina has the title role of Amber, a cop “who saves people”, presumably children based on the title. Filming took place in Montreal during the summer. In addition she’s “practicing [her] other full time job, which is looking for a job”. Everyone loved that comment. Who wouldn’t? Alaina kept the comedic comments coming throughout her panel. In fact, her ebullience remained high all day. At her signing table, she was friendly, out going, and generous with fans. It was such a delight to meet her.
Moving on to Supernatural, her audition was the scene where Abaddon gets stabbed in the back, shot under the jaw, and has her head chopped off… talk about difficult. She got the job, so she must have done well. Having played bad guys, good guys, and bad ass good guys, she says ideally one’s characters will have layers that can be explored. Layers make it more interesting, especially when playing a villain. However “that being said, it’s fun to play bad. That’s one of my favorite parts of the Black Canary. She’s got such a deep history, like she’s been written so many times, that she has so many layers. She’s so strong and yet she’s very vulnerable. To me that is her strength… she’s super badass. She can kick your butt, and throw knives at you; and she’s hot, in her tiny pants”.
Many actors try to do their own stunts. Alaina is no different. She has become close friends with one of her stunt doubles, as well as a stunt co-ordinator, both of whom worked with her on Stargate: Universe and Smallville. Regarding how close actors and the stunt team can get, Alaina said “They’ll knock on your trailer and say ‘Hey we’re gonna go throw some knives, wanna come learn’? ‘YES’! ‘We’re gonna go shoot arrows’. ‘Okay’. ‘You wanna learn how to do a flip’? ‘Uh huh’. It’s like playing, it’s what I do for a living”. When asked if there was ever a stunt she refused to do, Alaina responded “No”, and then with excitement in her voice, said “Explosives? Yes”.
A fan asked what her children thought of mom being an actor. They’ve grown up with it, and all of Alaina’s friends are actors, so to her children it’s just what mom does. In a funny story, she said one of her son’s friends follows a fan of hers. The friend told her son “Dude I thought your mom was famous. She only has 300 followers on Instagram”. The son replied “You’re following her fan”. Her children have grown up on set, and have traveled the world with mom on location. In yet another joke, she said her kids “probably think I just go to set and eat craft services all day”.
Every actor who has ever been to a convention has stories to tell. One of her funniest con experiences was in London. As she walked along the hall she saw a succession of girls on the floor, crying. As she wondered what was going on, she looked ahead and saw Jensen Ackles walking in front of her.
She realized she had just walked in his wake. When she entered the green room she asked him if knew what he does to people. In another con story Jared Padalecki crashed her panel, and leaned over the table to give her a hug and a kiss, and she heard hundreds of cameras go off. She told him that everyone just took pictures of his ass.
A profound question asked of her regarded previous roles of hers that stepped away from the stereotypical ‘women talking about weddings, or reproduction’. After jokingly referring to shoes as a topic of conversation also, she felt Stargate: Universe did a great job in that respect. Her view is that TJ from Universe had good professional conversations with Ming-Na’s character Ray.
Many actors are often asked what they feel their biggest mistake is. All comedy aside, Alaina’s response to that question was that she feels she didn’t believe in herself and took too long to appreciate who she is as an individual. She also feels it can’t be taught, but rather must be learned via life choices.
At some point in her career she would love to do comedy, or be a romantic interest as a change from all the badass characters she plays. Emphasizing her height, and her voice, she said all actors have to accept whatever their type is. She looks for layers in characters that will allow her to play multiple aspects of herself.
There are dream sets where everyone becomes like family, and there are nightmares where even just one bad apple creates endless tension. In her experience, Alaina says the best way to tell the mood of a set is by everyone’s lunch behavior. The cast, hair, and makeup teams eat first for logistical reasons. If the cast joins the crew in the lunch tent “it’s an awesome cast and crew to be with…life would be miserable if you worked with people you hated all the time”.
Learning dialogue is often difficult for actors. Alaina was working on Universe from 6 am to 1 pm while 3 months pregnant, and had to learn a line for Smallville episode ‘Doomsday’ in less than a day. Any woman who has had children will know what Alaina means by “I had that mommy brain thing happening”. She had “no time to prepare, pregnant, and working another show, so by the time filming started on Smallville it was 3am”. Naturally she couldn’t remember the line, and asked the props guy to tape it into the map she was holding. Right before doing her individual coverage for the scene, Justin Hartley pulled her aside and insisted she could not read the line. To help her, he went word for word over the line.
After half hour, she learned the line, but “now it’s like a scar in my head”. When Justin asked if she could say the line, Alaina replied ” I should be able to impact the scan shift frequency scaling they use as safeguards, and directly route thermal safe algorithms to imbed frequency anomalies into the surface area and subsequently any hardware. Yes I can do it”. She got a round of applause from us. After all that work though, they kept, “yes I can do it”. After all that work, the line was not used and she will never forget that line. To this day she still wonders “what does that even mean”?
When asked about pranks on Supernatural she said “they don’t play pranks on me”. She immediately followed that with the possibility they were planning to get her someday.
Her dream location to film is “everywhere in the world, maybe Mars, why not”. She takes her kids with her, because it’s educational, though the school doesn’t necessarily like them missing three weeks of lessons. Alaina joked about making a donation to the school, and that she calls her family “the budget Jolie-Pitts”. One of the neatest (and possibly geekiest) souvenirs was found after almost a month in NZ. Her daughter found a leaf from the one fake tree in Hobbiton, on the ground. Alaina’s plan is to put it in a scrapbook.
Growing up on set, and traveling the world with mom on film locations…well those scrapbooks will be full of adventure, and surely cherished for years to come. Alaina Huffman’s panel was full of insight to an actor’s life, her own experiences, hopes, and dreams. Meeting Alaina some time after, at her signing table, I came face to face with that same positive energy, generous spirit, and deep appreciation of her fans. Thank you so much for joining us at Phoenix Fan Fest this year!