This semester, FIU Theatre is welcoming a new faculty member to the family! Melvin Huffnagle has made the move down to Miami as our new Assistant Professor of Acting. The Buffalo, NY native is a professional actor with years of experience on the stage and screen including Off Broadway productions like The Kings of Harlem and Black Angels Over Tuskegee and television shows like Law and Order SVU and Royal Pains.
We sat down with him the first week of classes to play our 7 Questions game and get to know a little more about the fresh face on campus.
1. What’s your first impression of Miami?
Hot and humid. I love the scenery. The aesthetics of the city are just beautiful. All the green and the sun and the water. I love the colors.
2. What do you like most about teaching?
I love that teaching is symbiotic. I feel that as much as I’m giving to my students, I get a lot from them in return. They help me become a better communicator…a better teacher. I know we lead the charge in the classroom, but its them doing the work. That process of discovery and working through things, we all win in that process.
3. Is there a character you played that taught you something?
They all teach you something. I always learn to empathize more with different types of people after playing different characters. Putting yourself through their circumstances, you gain a different perspective. It helps you understand and be more patient with people. One character that comes to mind right now would be Malik in a one-act called The Sessions. He was really tough and abrasive on the outside, but was using that as a wall and a mask to hide his homosexuality. He taught me to accept people and not judge them. Everyone is getting through life the best way they can, you know?
4. What’s your happy place?
Any time I could just be still and present in the moment is always good for me. I usually find that outdoors and in nature. I also love the beach…that’s definitely a happy place for me. And music! Music always takes me to my happy place. Jazz, hip hop, funk…a lot of funk lately. It helps me to feel good and change my mood. Music is powerful. Oh, and the stage! I don’t know how I could forget that one. The communion with my fellow actors on stage and the audience is my ultimate happy place!
5. What’s a movie that stayed with you long after the final credits?
My go-to is The Godfather. I always reference that whenever someone asks what inspired me to become an actor. I saw that movie at a young age and for whatever reason I was just drawn to it. Brando and Pacino particularly…especially Brando. Even as a kid, I understood what was going on and I gravitated towards that. I think that really spring boarded my interest in performing. I liked the first two Godfathers a lot, but yeah that first one just stuck with me. And actually, after watching the Directors Cut of the third one, it put that one back in the mix for me. Francis Copolla released his cut like six months ago and it’s a completely different movie than the one that was released in the theatre. Much better.
6. What has been your most powerful theatrical experience as an audience member?
I saw Phylicia Rashad in a Raisin in the Sun. I’ll never forget her performance. That was the first time I saw her live and I never knew how amazing she was on stage. Then I saw her three times in other shows after that one. Her presence and the ease with which she worked and maneuvered that character was incredible. She gave me goosebumps.
7. What is the thing you want your students to most know about you?
I’m always there to help. I give freely. I feel as though I have a good amount of knowledge of my craft – both professionally and academically. I also just want them to know that I’m approachable and easy to talk to and that I’m excited about helping them.