|An interview with James Morrison
(1987) CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF.
It's not a great setting for an interview -- fluorescent lights compete with a dirty carpet and a large refrigerator to kill any hint of ambience. It's suggested that the interview be moved to the theater, Morrison would rather not. He's coming off a 10-day run of the play, he's close to exhaustion and tired of the bed/sitting room set where he's spent the better part of November.
As he speaks, Morrison sips coffee from a Styrofoam cup and smokes a Winston. He looks too healthy to smoke, his Southern California-bronzed skin contrasting sharply with his sun-bleached, short-cropped hair. A former high school football athlete, he still works out daily.
Morrison, now 33, was 9 when his mother brought him and two of his five brothers and sisters to Alaska in 1963.
While a teen, Morrison quit the high school football team to don a toga and died his naturally blonde hair blonder to portray Hero, the romantic lead in the play A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
Morrison's mother convinced him to try out for his first play, an Anchorage Community Theater production. He auditioned and won a part.
"I embraced the theater community and the family it offered. It was a different group of creative personalities."
Midway through his senior year, he quit high school, took the tests to earn his diploma and signed up for drama classes at ACC.
During the early 1970's, Morrison made a name for himself in local theater productions, including playing the lead -- Jesus Christ -- in a local production of GODSPELL.
Buoyed by his success here, at 21, Morrison packed his bags for New York City, with an eye toward enrolling in a serious drama school. Nothing panned out, and he returned to Alaska, where he met Robert Farley, co-founder and former artistic director of the Rep. Farley asked Morrison to join the Rep's apprenticeship program.
For two seasons Morrison worked the technical and creative side of the theater, building sets and at the same time starring in a number of early Rep productions including DIAMOND STUDS, THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, and A CHRISTMAS CAROL.
These days Morrison lives in Los Angeles, but returned last season to star in the Rep's production of I'M NOT RAPPAPORT. Those who saw the play still recall Morrison's chilling portrayal of the vicious drug dealer "Cowboy."
Today he's scheduled to speak to a class in drama, English and creative writing at his alma mater, West High. He'll talk to the students about his acting and writing. He's written two plays, including one that takes place in an Anchorage trailer park entitled, IDLE WHEELS. The play has been produced by the Salt Lake Acting Company. Synopsized from an interview by Kim Rich for Anchorage Daily News