Nicole Huff is a talented multi-hyphenate in every sense of the word. She can dance, sing, act and play multiple instruments. Nicole started fully immersing herself in the arts from a young age. You could say that she’s answered her creative calling. Most known for portraying the wonderfully complex ballet dancer Paige Aquino in Netflix’s 2020 thriller Tiny Pretty Things, Nicole is already carving her path in the industry.
Recently, I had the privilege of chatting with Nicole about Tiny Pretty Things, the inspiration behind her first EP, her dream role and what the future has in store for her.
Melody McCune: We at GGA love a good origin story. What’s Nicole Huff’s origin story?
Nicole Huff: I grew up in Canada. My mom is Filipino. My dad is German and French. I grew up an only child and with my dog named Snicker. I fell in love with anything to do with the arts. And my parents saw the energy that I had growing up. They fed off that and enrolled me in activities like singing, dancing, acting, figure skating, karate, swimming, soccer, just a million things you can think of. I fell in love with all of them, and piano and different instruments as well. I really liked my busy schedule growing up. I narrowed down exactly what I wanted to do and really fell in love with music, dance and acting, specifically, and that’s how I came to be.
MM: Tell me about Tiny Pretty Things. What was the audition process like for that?
NH: They did a worldwide search for their main cast. They searched everywhere around the world and there were callbacks until they could find their dream cast. But for me, mine was different than the usual. It was different from everyone else in the cast. They just picked me off my self-tape.
I submitted my acting self-tape and my dance self-tape. Then, I heard back later that they wanted to book me for the role of Paige. I originally auditioned for the main character, Cassie. They didn’t even have me read for Paige. And the show itself, it’s a drama. It’s dark, and it’s based on these elite ballet students as they continue on their journey at the Archer School of Ballet.
There’s mystery involved and there’s darkness. They all want to be the best, and the show follows the rise and fall of these students.
MM: Some actors listen to music or they write as their character to prepare for a performance. Did you do anything, in particular, to get in character as Paige?
NH: I did her background work. I decided and figured out everything about this girl. Then thought about what I could bring out of myself that would be truthful to her. I know what it’s like to be a student and be passionate about my craft and that was this girl. She had a lot of similarities to me. She’s fun, she’s outgoing, she’s loving and sassy, but she’s also really strong and vulnerable. Depending on the scene, sometimes I would walk on set and just be in character. Other times, I could bring aspects of myself into her and it was just about finding that balance.
MM: As a dancer, do you think it’s easier to find a character’s physicality, especially for a show like this?
NH: Absolutely. I grew up doing many different styles of dance, competitively, until I started focusing on acting more. I feel like it really helped me to have a background. These students and a lot of the cast are mainly dancers who could also act really well.
For me, I consider myself an actor and singer who can also dance. It helps to have the posture of someone who grew up in dance and the way they walk, and all those things contribute to telling this character’s truth. But I feel like it definitely helped me in getting to portray the poise of a ballerina. That realistic physicality was important, and I felt like that helped me.
MM: Was there a scene in Tiny Pretty Things that you found to be challenging?
NH: Any scene where my character goes through challenges. Anytime there are some challenges it’s difficult to portray, because you have to go through it for the character. You have to be that character and actually go through what they’re going through. It’s not truthful if you just act like you’re going through what they’re going through. You have to, essentially in your body, go through what the circumstances are for this character. Anytime it was a fun scene, those are really fun to do, but the moments where she has to be vulnerable and where she has to be strong are the most challenging.
MM: You also have extensive experience in theater. Do you have a favorite production that you’ve done thus far?
NH: That’s a difficult one. I grew up doing theater when I was little, so I love everything that I’ve ever been a part of. Maybe Annie, where I played Molly when I was a little girl. That’s one that stands out. Then Peter Pan, I actually got to play Michael Darling, which was precious. I think that one also because I got to fly. I got to use the harness.
I played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. I grew up watching The Wizard of Oz and loved that movie for the longest time. That was fun too.
MM: Let’s talk about your music. You’re working on your first EP that’s set to be released this year with renowned music producer Roy Hamilton III. What’s the inspiration behind your EP?
NH: The inspiration behind my EP is music that makes me feel good. Makes me feel empowered, makes me want to get up and dance. I grew up listening to a lot of my own inspirations like Ariana Grande, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Demi Lovato, John Mayer. Jennifer Lopez. There are so many. But I like dance music, specifically, and I also like cute little ballads. Not only just what I’ve listened to growing up, but what I’ve experienced because I am very hands-on when it comes to writing my music.
A lot of it is just either what makes me feel good and empowered or what I’ve been through, and what can I say that’s truthful. What kind of story can I tell or who can I dedicate the song to. That’s what I’m inspired by.
MM: Is there a musical artist that you’d love to collaborate with?
NH: Oh, my goodness, there are so many. Bea Miller is one. Maybe someday in the future, we’ll see, but Ariana Grande.
MM: That would be cool!
NH: Yeah, that’d be really cool. I had an Ariana Grande-themed birthday party. That just shows how much I love her. There are so many.
MM: Do you have a dream role? It can be in film, TV, theater, etc.
NH: I would say my dream role is anything really gritty and shows a ton of range in my acting ability, because I love that stuff. Anything that’s difficult to portray. Something like Girl, Interrupted. One of those characters.
That or something like Selena where J. Lo was singing and dancing. You know what I mean? Somewhere I can sing and dance or figure skate or something like that. That’d be super fun or both of those things put together.
MM: Do you have any advice for aspiring performers looking to get their foot in the door?
NH: It’s going to sound cheesy, but be yourself, that’s the most authentic thing you can offer to the role. What makes you different is what’s the most beautiful thing about you. And I would say try not to take rejection personally. Don’t worry about things you can’t control, because in the industry rejection is inevitable. You’re not going to be right for every single part you audition for, but don’t let that bring you down. Keep going and work hard and stay inspired.
MM: Excellent advice! What’s next for you in terms of upcoming projects?
NH: My guest-starring role on CBC’s Pretty Hard Cases has yet to air. I think it’s airing on March 3. I’ve been very close to some big roles coming up, but with the industry, it’s a last-minute thing. It’s just mainly Tiny Pretty Things, which is still streaming. I also just signed with my US representation in LA.
I’ve signed with Jason Priestley‘s agents, and Rachel McAdams and Rosamund Pike‘s talent managers, so it’s been really exciting for me. I’ve been getting really amazing opportunities. A lot of opportunities or lots of scripts to read through. There’s been a lot of doors opening for me ever since this year happened, and last year with the release of TPT and Pretty Hard Cases.
I feel like people got to see my range in Tiny Pretty Things because you can see that really vulnerable side and also the charismatic side that Paige has. I had lots of these reps reach out to me and I had to pick who I thought I clicked with.
MM: That’s awesome! Congratulations on getting signed! Have you binge-watched anything interesting during quarantine?
NH: I binge-watched The Queen’s Gambit, and I forget what the movie’s called, but Anne Hathaway and Matthew McConaughey‘s movie right now. I watched that, and then I binge-watched TPT (Tiny Pretty Things).
MM: Name your top five favorite films or anything that comes to mind.
MM: Those are good ones.
NH: The Notebook, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Okay, that’s six. I like anything really dark and gritty or anything romantic and comedic.
MM: Thank you so much, Nicole, for chatting with me! Congratulations on everything!
NH: Thank you!
You can follow Nicole on Twitter (@nicoleshuff) and on Instagram (@nicolesamanthahuff). You can catch her in Tiny Pretty Things, which is currently streaming on Netflix. Be sure to stay tuned for her upcoming EP release this year!
This interview was originally published on 2/19/21
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