With a down to earth attitude and loads of talent, actor and singer Morgan James is here to stay. In a recent interview with him, here is what he had to say:
Please introduce yourself to the readers:
Hi there my name is Morgan James and I am an actor and singer.
Born and raised in the small town of Aberdare, in the South Wales valley’s, in England. My real name is James Morgan but when I joined the actors union equity, someone already had my name and being belligerent and not wanting to lose my name I decided to turn it around. It has caused utter confusion ever since! I have been working as an actor on both stage and screen for the last 20 years as well as being a singer and voice over artist. I moved to London to study acting when I left school and I have stayed here ever since. I love living in London, it is so cosmopolitan and complex and every day you can discover something new. My passions are travel, food and music in any particular order.
How and when did you first get into performing?
I first got into acting through an amateur dramatic society in my home town. I had shown an interest in drama at school and my parents found a local drama group that put on musicals and had a lot of young children in the company. Within a few weeks of going to rehearsal’s for South Pacific I was asked if I would be a walk on in a new BBC dramatization of the A.J.Cronin classic The Citadel, which was filming in South Wales. I turned up, showed that for a 9 year old I could walk and talk and hit my marks and the director, Michael Morris, asked my parents if I would be available to film other episodes. A lot of the action was set in a small village, so he wanted continuity of neighbors and kids in the street and I fitted the bill. The next thing I knew, me and my chaperone, my mum, were on location in South Wales and Yorkshire. It was such a fun time for a 9 year old and indirectly ignited my passion for acting and my future vocation.
Who were some of your biggest inspirations?
There are so many people who have inspired me both in and out of the arts however as an actor the most inspiring performance that had such a profound effect on me was Dustin Hoffman as Tootsie. I was probably only about 10, and I remember leaving the cinema and being almost bereft that Dorothy Michaels didn’t really exist. It took me some time to appreciate that she did exist, that Dustin Hoffman had so superbly brought this character to life that she will always exist somewhere inside me when I remember that film and the feelings it touched in me. It was my first experience on the power of good acting and the creation of a character. I also love watching Martin Sheen act. He is so effortless. I love actors without vanity, Bryan Cranston, Meryl Streep, Julie Walters. During my own career, I have worked with many amazing actors but the two that have truly inspired me are Eddie Marsan, we worked together on Richard III and not only was he a phenomenal Richard but also a kind, funny man and then Penelope Wilton. We worked together at the Royal Shakespeare Company and I can honestly say that every night on stage with her was exciting and a master class in acting. She is such a warm lovely person. She is at the top of her craft and a great person. Also a lovely friend.
I am inspired by so many artists as a vocalist, and as a standards singer, it is the quality of the voice that really thrills and moves me. I have always listened to the likes of Matt Monro, Andy Williams, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Barbra Streisand, Karen Carpenter…. The list could really go on. On a personal level, my parents are my greatest inspirations. They have taught me a great work ethic and a real compassion for people and equality.
What kind of training have you done?
I did a lot of TV as a child so learned quite a lot about camera technique. However working as a child actor, does not necessarily mean you naturally become a good actor when you are an adult, so training has been essential in my career. I was a member of the National Youth Theatre of Wales and then I went on to study Drama and American History at Brunel University. I am also a massive advocate for The Actors Centre in London. It is essential that as artists, we continue to expand our skills and knowledge base.
What has been your favorite role to play so far?
I loved playing The Man in Side by Side by Sondheim. Stephen Sondheim writes songs for actors so you can really immerse yourself in the character and the music. I also loved playing Jack in the London premiere of Joe De Pietro’s play F***ing Men. Written as a thoughtless, selfish adulterer it was great to explore such a character and find a compassion and vulnerability in what could so easily have been a two dimensional character. The most fun role was No 7, a gimp in the 3rd series of Being Human, so much latex and baby oil!
What projects do you have coming up?
I am the writer and continuity voice for the BBC satellite channel Watch so that is an ongoing commitment that is constantly testing and challenging me. Live TV is so unpredictable. I am also working on singing material to perform at the beautiful jazz/cabaret venue The Crazy Coqs in Piccadilly, London. I also start rehearsals for a national tour of the Secret Love: The story of Doris Day working alongside Claudia Shavick later this year.
Who would be your ideal co-star and why?
There are too many to mention. I would love to work with Martin Sheen and although it would completely terrify me, because I think she is a genius, Meryl Streep. I would also love to work with Emma Thompson and I think Leonardo Di Caprio is a fine actor. The effort to be half good next to them would terrify and excite me at the same time. I would absolutely love to duet with Barbra Streisand, such a legend and what a voice! Just to hear my voice with hers!
What are your plans for the future?
To not sweat the small stuff! It is a cliché I know, but actors have very little control of their careers. As much as talent is essential, success and work often comes down to timing, contacts and factors that are essentially beyond our control. I am working really hard at not stressing about the things I cannot change and trying to maintain some control over the factors that I can control. I am also learning to say No, which is hard, especially as an actor, because you never know when the next job could be so there is a tendency to say Yes to everything. It is quite empowering to turn work down if it feels right. It is all about taking control of what you can.
What is your advice to aspiring performers?
I would like to refer to Bryan Cranston who said that about 17 years ago he had an epiphany that changed his whole approach to acting. He realised that the audition is a meeting for a job, it is not your job and it should not be all about getting the job. Learn to enjoy the process of the casting, getting to know the character, having fun being that character for a short while and then when you leave the casting, leave it in the room and do not carry all that heavy extra baggage of waiting for the phone to ring with an offer, or beating yourself up asking was I good enough? As acting coach Margie Haber would say… learn to live the life and enjoy the life, both in character and as a human being. It will be bumpy but enjoy the ride!!!
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