Earlier this month, BYU senior and acting major Langi Tuifua wrapped up a series of performances for the campus production of “Pride and Prejudice.” He had just played a starring role as key character Mr. Darcy.
As he prepares to graduate this week, he reflects on how life doesn’t always go as you might expect. Just a few years ago, no one could have imagined that he would be an actor on stage, even Tuifua.
“When I came to BYU, I was pretty set on playing football and studying computer science,” Tuifua said. “But God has a plan for everyone.”
Athletics was at the center of his original plan. As a 2017 four-star recruit and defensive end out of high school, he held plenty of competing offers from prominent college football programs. Ultimately, citing a desire to be close to home, Tuifua decided that BYU was the perfect match.
But then came adversity. During his first fall camp, Tuifua suffered from a herniated disc in his neck, leading to severe numbness and pain in his left arm and back. Even though he still ended up playing in much of the 2017 season, the pain didn’t go away. After a year of surgery and recovery, he attempted to return, but the numbness and pain returned too. In April 2019, he decided to protect his health and retire from the sport.
With the decision came a focus on finding a new passion. Tuifua knew he wanted to specialize in an area with creativity and remained open to possibilities; he considered continuing in computer science or learning about animation. Around this time, he recalls a strong interest in acting being kindled when he attended a production of the musical “Wicked.”
“I saw ’Wicked’ and I was blown away with how amazing it was,” Tuifua said. “I thought, ‘I could be doing this stuff right now!’ So, I went and learned more about acting.”
Not long after, Tuifua found a mentor who was a senior in the acting program. He watched the upperclassman in a few performances and realized the magnitude of skill and focus needed for successful theater productions. He also took a couple of classes where he interacted with BYU Theater and Media Arts faculty members and was impressed with their real-world experiences in directing and acting. He knew then that this was the path he should take.
“Ultimately, what helped me with my adversity was just having faith in God and knowing that he had a plan for me.”
Since making his decision to change the direction of his college career, Tuifua has performed in BYU on-stage productions “Julius Caesar,” “The Caucasian Chalk Circle” and, most recently, “Pride and Prejudice.” He has also spent time honing his skills off campus, appearing in a few television commercials and as a central character in a Lifetime Christmas movie. Standing at 6-foot-3, he’s hard to miss in whatever role he plays.
He has found some similarities between athletics and acting.
“In live stage theater, you get to perform in front of an audience, get their feedback on things and go up and talk to a lot of the people who stay after and come and talk to you,” Tuifua said. “It’s got a lot of similar energy to sporting events and I really do love that.”
He credits BYU with helping him grow into a better communicator, team member and collaborator — all skills necessary to be a successful actor. He believes that being surrounded by people with collective goals and standards has helped him maximize these outcomes.
“Here at BYU, we often hear the phrase ‘Enter to learn, go forth to serve,’” Tuifua said. “I also like to add, ‘Go forth to create’ to the motto. I can’t wait to share these experiences with everyone.”
After graduation, Tuifua plans to audition for films and live stage productions and is open to opportunities as a director or writer.