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Jose Angel Santana, PhD

Adjunct Associate Professor

Affiliated Divisions:

Division of Film & Television Production


José Angel Santana, Ph.D., is an educator, a Bravo Network "Arts for Change” award-winning director, an accomplished actor, and an innovator in the field of interpersonal communication. He was a student of the great Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre and appears throughout the documentaries Sanford Meisner Master Class directed by Sidney Pollack and Sanford Meisner: The Theater’s Best Kept Secret.

As the Head of the Directing Actors Division at the NYU Graduate School of Film from 2008 – 2012, he has influenced and continues to mentor some of today's most promising and award-winning young filmmakers. On March 15, 2021, three of those, Shaka King (along with USC SCA's Ryan Coogler), Chloé Zhao, and Mollye Asher, were nominated collectively for 12 Academy Award nominations. 

He has taught the course he created at the School of Visual Arts, The Art of Connecting from 2007 until relocating to Los Angeles in the summer of 2020 and has served as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Film, specializing in Directing Actors at the Columbia University School of the Arts, Graduate Film School, since 2014.

As a young actor, José Angel Santana received critical acclaim for his heartbreaking debut performance as "José - the Junkie" in Sidney Lumet's Prince Of The City and is remembered as the "Strange Boutique Owner" with Madonna in the ‘80’s cult classic Desperately Seeking Susan. Among his other featured performances in film are “Benny” in Batteries Not Included with Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn, along with roles in Night HawksThe Pope of Greenwich VillageGarbo Talks, and The Morning After with Jane Fonda.

He has originated leading roles in works by some of our most important international playwrights: three world premiers of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet's works: The Blue Hour directed by Mr. Mamet at the New York Shakespeare Festival; Edmond directed by Gregory Mosher at Chicago's Goodman Theater and in its OBIE Award-winning production at the legendary Provincetown Playhouse in Greenwich Village; and Mamet's adaptation of Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard directed by Mosher with Oscar Nominees (Fargo) W.H.Macy and (Places in the Heart) Lindsay Crouse.

In 1979, he acted alongside Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington in the New York Shakespeare Festival's Central Park production of Coriolanus, directed by Wilford Leach.

He originated leading roles in Academy Award Nominee (Reds) Trevor Griffiths' Real Dreams directed by Mr. Griffiths and opposite two time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey at the Williamstown Theater Festival; in Joe Cacaci's Self Defense directed by Arvin Brown at the Long Wharf Theater and Off-Broadway; in Eduardo Machado's The Modern Ladies of Guanabacoa directed by James Hammerstein, at Ensemble Studio Theatre, in New York City; as well as the title role in Felipe Santander's, Casa de Las Americas award-winning play, El Extensionista directed by John Dillon, at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

In television, he co-starred alongside renowned playwright/actor and leading member of the Nuyorican literary movement, Miguel Piñero in the Emmy award-winning episode of Miami Vice - Calderon's Demise; as well as in episodes of Hill Street Blues, The Twilight Zone, and Beverly Hills 90210, and once again with Oscar-nominated actress Lindsay Crouse, in the Lifetime Channel movie Stranger In My House.

He is a lifetime member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre.