Welcome to ACTING UP, the place where we celebrate standout performances in TV, streaming and film. Other than spotlighting exceptional work from recent projects, this feature also shines a light on how certain actors got where they are today. Have a peek and then check out these notable performances to help hone your craft.
(The HBO Max original series premiered on November 26th, 2020)
The Performer: Michiel Huisman
The Series: The Flight Attendant
It’s a rare thing when a dead person can help you solve his own murder. But that’s the plight for flight attendant Cassie Bowden (Kaley Cuoco), the boozy babe who wakes up in high thread count sheets hungover after a one-night stand with first-class passenger Alex Sokolov (Michiel Huisman). A potentially adorable scene if Alex’s throat wasn’t slit and laying in a pool of blood.
Now, perpetually drunk Cassie (like most guys in The Hangover) is in a race against the clock to piece together what happened — and to eliminate herself as an FBI suspect — while having little-to-no recall of events from a night that could upend her entire jet-setting world. Good times.
The beauty of this mystery is that Cassie has help — from Alex, actually — who rather charmingly lives both in flashback form and in psychotic fantasy sequences inside Cassie’s head to help her sort out the messy details. In the flashback part, Alex exists as part of the love story where we see what actually happened on their date, as pieces come into focus for Cassie. A boat ride in Bangkok, strolls through street markets, a balcony jacuzzi and booze — really, so much booze.
Then, there are fantasy sequences where Alex pops up in Cassie’s head to plant seeds (true or not) — as she tries to decipher key details. In these sequences, Alex is much quirkier as the voice inside Cassie’s head — a spit baller with questionable intentions. He says things like, “I know you didn’t call the police to tell them something happened to me” and “You cleaned up the crime scene so that’s another strike against you,” offering the play-by-play as her inner paranoia.
It’s in these moments, where Huisman the actor shows his range, adding slight tweaks to his performance in this alternate reality inside Cassie’s head. Making his suggestions seem more loaded and calculating — versus the softer nature to which he plays Alex on the actual date. It’s these kinds of moments that keep the mystery moving along… and also make you wonder exactly how, why and if Alex deserved to meet his demise in a Bangkok hotel room.
Throughout it all, Huisman lends humor and lightness to a dark character who you gradually wish could’ve lived longer in the physical world, the more you get to know him.
As Alex says late in the pilot episode as he gets out of bed — dead — to help Cassie crack the case:
“I think you remember more than you think you do.”
It’s a testament to Huisman’s portrayal of Alex that we cheer for him to help her pull it together.
If you’re watching Huisman do his thing in The Flight Attendant and think he’d make a great leading man, well, you might want to check out the Dutch actor’s performance in The Age of Adaline (2015), opposite Blake Lively and Harrison Ford. In it, Huisman does a bang-up job as the love interest of a woman born in the 1920s — who never ages a day in her life.
Then there’s HBO’s Game of Thrones, where Huisman portrayed Daario Naharis in seasons 4-6 of the fantasy epic, Daenerys Targaryen’s enforcer-cum-love-interest. It’s one of Huisman’s more memorable roles to date — and one where he actually replaced an actor from season three.
(Side note: If you’re going to replace someone on a series, make sure it’s Game of Thrones.)
Huisman started acting at a young age in Holland, which eventually led to his “break” at age 18 when he landed on Dutch soap opera Goede tijden, slechte tijden.
More recently, the 39-year-old Huisman could be seen in the Netflix film The Red Sea Diving Resort (2019) and Netflix horror series hit The Haunting of Hill House (2018) as Steven Crain. He also had a standout role in another horror film, The Other Lamb (2019) — not to mention, recurring roles on Nashville (2012-2014) and Orphan Black (2014-2015) back in the day.
Huisman will next be seen in the family holiday film A Boy Called Christmas, alongside Kristen Wiig, Sally Hawkins, and Maggie Smith. The film is slated for release on Netflix in 2021.
With The Flight Attendant getting a return flight from HBO Max for season two, there will be another adventure for Cassie. However, if one had to guess, Huisman’s very dead character of Alex will likely sit it out.
Gregg Rosenzweig has been a writer, creative director and managing editor for various entertainment clients, ad agencies and digital media companies over the past 20 years. He is also a partner in the talent management/production company, The Rosenzweig Group.