*Actor Joe Morton is one of the most celebrated thespians in America. For the better part of four decades, Morton’s talents have enlivened characters in such films as “The Brother from Another Planet,” “Terminator 2: Judgement Day,” “Dawn of Justice,” and “Scandal.”
He also thrilled audiences on Broadway for decades prior to gaining cinematic and television acclaim. Indeed, there may be some who are more popular, but none are better than this Tony Award-winning, Emmy Award-winning actor.
Similarly, casting director/producer Tracey Moore has long been in a stratosphere all her own, having worked as a casting director for over 30 years on many of our favorite projects throughout the 90s, early 2000s and beyond. The combined knowledge of the duo is a virtual library of acting.
Recently, EURweb.com (Ricardo A Hazell) was invited to the set of “Inside the Black Box,” a very unique show about acting that’s currently in its second season on Crackle.
The show, which is reminiscent of “Inside the Actor’s Studio with Robert Lipton,” features prominent actors, directors, writers and producers of color and helps to further the never-ending dialectic on race in American entertainment.
The hour-long episodes feature life and history lessons for all ages and include perspectives from some of the biggest names in the game.
Tracey Moore: I felt like this show was something that was needed. We don’t get enough opportunities, as people of color, to share our stories and our experiences, which can help shift for change ’cause we’re in 2022 and there we are fighting for in terms of roles, being seen as an actor, and not just a “black” actor, workable budgets and people who are in a position to greenlight more projects so that we could tell more stories of our stories.
So that wasn’t originally the platform and then to showcase actors from my company, The Spirited Actor, and teaching. I thought about this the other day but honestly, I think I’ve been thinking about doing something with you (Joe Morton) since Urbanworld Film Festival.
I felt like that. Like I just started thinking about when I first met Joe at Urbanworld I felt this synergy. Even though I wasn’t around him at Urbanworld really, I know Hopi, his daughter.
So, the first person to come to mind after we did the sizzle was when we had Malik Yoba with Joe and the other actors.
After that sizzle, I said to myself, “Joe would be great for this but I didn’t know how to approach him because he works, he’s busy, he does a lot of stuff.”
So, when Joe called me and he was like “How’s the show going?” and I said, “Well, we need a celebrity with a production company.” And Joe said, “Well, I’m a celebrity and I have a production company.” And I asked ‘Well, would you, do it?’ I feel like with his experience and his experience, his knowledge, a plethora of inspiration to actors. Someone of Emmy Award-winning, legendary stature.
To be able to say “excuse me Mr. Morgan you know what do you suggest in terms of monologue?,” which is what I heard that last season. For an actor that is inspiring, that will live on without forever and that’s the story they’re gonna tell their children and grandchildren. And so, for me, I felt like he was the perfect person. Initially, I thought he was going to host. That’s the real thing.
Joe Morton: Well, but I think, also, I mean between the two of us, that we know so many people, what happens when these folks come on the show as we’ve sort of set up an environment that makes them feel safe.
It makes it easier for them to talk about, not so much about what their latest project is, but what their experience has been as people of color in this business, which is what this is all about. So that to me was what I was interested in doing.
Two things, one is to bring folks on and tell folks what their experiences were and invoke that sort of “Aha-ha’ moment, as well as giving all of these young people the opportunity to stand in front of a camera.
If you’ve noticed, we don’t do improv. Last season was “Let’s get Joe to do improv” but the problem with me doing improv is then it becomes “The Joe Morton Improv Show.”
It’s not about that, it’s about them! So, I will play with certain concepts and do little funny things with them, but I want them to be forward and us introduce them as well as the guests that come on the show.
EURweb.com: Mr. Morton, I think of you as being at the pinnacle of acting. Every role you’re in, you literally become the role. Before they even hear any dialogue, they respond to you emotionally. How do you impart such an intangible thing to a young actor?
It’s training, really. It’s teaching an actor what to do. So, for me. there are five questions that I ask myself for every script every line every word that I speak. That’s how I do.
That’s my process. Plus doing as much research as I can on the character. You wanna impart, not just the specific, but that hard work really makes the character come alive.
It’s not just on kind of talented and I can do XY and Z. It’s yes, you’re talented then you can do XY and Z but you wanna be able to do more than that, and you’ll find you can do more than that, one, if you have a discipline and two, if you do the work.
With all of yesterday’s guests, for instance, we made it clear to show how hard they worked and how deep they dig for what they do. It’s the same for me, it’s the same for Tracey in terms of what she does from that point of view.
EURweb.com: What does it look like for you day-to-day when preparing for being an actor or actress to come on the show?
Tracey Moore: The thing about being an actor is you come from a place of truth, but you also come from a place of experience. If an actor doesn’t have the experience of their character, it’s their job to do their due diligence, like Joe was saying, and do research on the character. You have to know the experience to make it authentic. Otherwise, you’re just acting.
So, what I encourage my actors, in lieu of training, is to live life! My son was in an accident in November, but I still had to work. My dad passed he was transitioning when I was working with Buster. I was coaching him on Narc, with Ray Liotta and Jason Patrick. I was with my dad while he was transitioning and was calling me like “Tracey, when are you going coming back to Toronto and on the set?”
Even though I don’t consider myself an actress, but I do understand acting and I do understand the process. I tell actors you have to live life in order to be able to understand these experiences that your characters have that are in common with you or not in common with you. And so, also, since COVID, I’m really big on mental health and self-care.
I deal with a lot of young celebrities and they’re constantly trying to out “Cardi B” themselves. And the pressure that they put on themselves is really big, right?
So, I try to tell them that the present, and I keep them present, will help them make it to the future. That’s where we’re moving to.
But If you’re staying in the past, if you have grudges or regrets or anything like that, that adds interference into my work.
So, it’s important to live your life authentically and be present and observant. Because you never know when you might have to pull from other things.
One of the exercises that I have in my class is they should sit in a park or sit in a village and observe people and create stories behind that. It’s important to be present in life so that you can translate that into acting, but if you’re not, then you’re not bringing truth to the table.
You can catch up on “Inside the Black Box” on Crackle and Crackle Plus, both of which are still free to viewers.