Emmy® Award winning film, television and stage veteran actor Joe Morton is best known for his iconic role as Rowan, the merciless and sinister father of ‘Olivia Pope’ (Kerry Washington) and formerly the immoral head of the clandestine, black-ops division “B613” in one of the most watched shows on television, “Scandal.”
His deliciously evil portrayal of ‘Rowan’ has kept viewers on their toes guessing what kind of devious curveball he will throw each week making him one of TV’s most-hated dads and leading him to win his first Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor. The Broadway trained, decorated actor has over 40 years of experience in theatre, television and film and has become a dominating presence on Shonda Rhimes’ groundbreaking series. Often referred to as the ‘Monologue King,’ Morton’s dialogue has been communicated almost exclusively in eloquent intervals delivering poignant speeches that are both singular and blistering, whilst addressing class, race and privilege; topics that are rarely covered in primetime television. As a central and lethal focal point throughout the series, critics and audiences alike came to understand that “Rowan” is the seemingly evil mastermind behind nearly all of the nefarious events that have unfolded.
Let’s learn more about this multi-talented man…
Beverly Hills Magazine: What is your process as an actor and how do you prepare for your roles?
Joe Morton: I had great teachers and was always taught to ask myself 5 questions. 1. Who am I? 2. Where am I going? 3. Who will I meet? 4. What do I want? 5. To what extent am I willing to go to get what I want? I use this process to a T. It’s simple but very real life, and it helps be to determine my characters behavior and mindset.
Beverly Hills Magazine: What is your opinion of “Hollywood”?
Joe Morton: Personally I prefer New York. As a business though, Hollywood is a very interesting place. Many people come here to explore the Hollywood dream, sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s an entire industry built on fiction, on glitz and glamour, but within all of that façade there’s the truth behind the stories being told. For this reason, Hollywood is a mirror to the rest of the world. A mirror that reveals our ideals, our beliefs, and our culture.
Beverly Hills Magazine: What is the best part of the business?
Joe Morton: Having a job! I’m been fortunate enough to be able to put three kids through college in this business. This gives me a feeling of success, and that’s the best part.
Beverly Hills Magazine: What is the worst part of the business?
Joe Morton: Rejection. It gets easier as you get older though. What people don’t see is how much time, energy and effort goes into creating a character that has dimension and depth. When you audition, and don’t get the part that you worked so hard for, that’s tough.
Beverly Hills Magazine: What are your dream roles?
Joe Morton: I’d like to play more roles that portray the regular lives of African Americans. Most stories are told through the lens of slavery or social injustice. Many stories are also skewed with stereotypes that just aren’t true. I want to play characters that depict the everyday hardships that we all go through, regardless of our skin color, but told through the perspective of a black man. We all have to face the devil inside of us, and I want to show the journey of humanity in doing so.
Beverly Hills Magazine: What advice would you give to aspiring actors?
Joe Morton: Get a good education. Study and pursue. Do theatre first. If you can create and keep a character over a period of months, then you can do anything.
Beverly Hills Magazine: Have you discovered a personal purpose in what you do?
Joe Morton: I’ve been connecting with a powerful quote lately by Picasso. “Art is the lie that reveals the truth.” To me, that is the purpose. I am involved in various TV shows, movies, plays, etc…and it’s all a lie. But hopefully, it will reveal a truth.
2016 was Joe’s busiest year! Morton recently made an appearance in Zack Snyder’s BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE playing the role of ‘Dr. Silas Stone’ of S.T.A.R. Labs, the father of ‘Victor Stone,’ the metahuman better known as Cyborg, who is set to appear in countless films slated for release over the course of the next four years. Morton also portrayed the role of NAACP leader Roy Wilkins alongside Bryan Cranston in the critically-acclaimed HBO Lyndon B. Johnson biopic ALL THE WAY, adapted from the Tony-winning Robert Schenkkan play, directed by Jay Roach and executive produced by Steven Spielberg. Last but not least, Morton returned to his theater roots as he portrays the groundbreaking comedian Dick Gregory in the one-man show TURN ME LOOSE at The Westside Theatre in New York City, receiving rave reviews.
Born in Harlem, Morton was raised in a military family and spent parts of his childhood in West Germany and Okinawa, Japan before finishing school in New York. After attending Hofstra University, Morton made his way through the Broadway circuit before making his stage debut in the Tony® award winning musical “Hair”, leading to his starring role in “Raisin,” the Tony® award winning musical theatre adaptation of the acclaimed ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ which garnered him a Tony nomination for ‘Lead Actor in a Musical.” Prior to his career-changing role on “Scandal,” Morton was best known for his leading role in his first film BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET by John Sayles. He is mostly recognized for his starring roles in TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY, SPEED, Syfy’s “Eureka” and “The Cosby Show’s’ spin-off “A Different World,” among many others. Morton is huge proponent of diversity in Hollywood and uses his platform to express the need for more contemporary non-white roles in TV/film.
In his rare free time, Joe Morton devotes time to his family, writing, playing guitar, recording music (he enjoys singing the blues). Music has been a huge part of his life and his talent has led him to write and score a multitude of songs for his various film and television projects.
(Images by Benjo Arwas)