Fan Fest Exclusive Interview: Actor Ric Morgan Discusses New Film “Imago” and Law Enforcement Roots
After spending the bulk of his career working in law enforcement, Ric Morgan made the jump to the entertainment industry as an actor/producer. Using knowledge gained during his years in his former career, Morgan is now working on IMAGO which examines the societal issues regarding sex trafficking.
Fan Fest: What motivated the transition from law enforcement to acting?
Ric Morgan: It was Serendipity, actually. Some years ago I concluded that the arc of my star at the Sheriff’s Office had long ago passed its apogee, and I knew I had to leave that politically toxic environment. While anxious about what lay on the other side of an early retirement, I had developed a rather unique skill set in the counter-terrorism, disaster preparedness, and VIP protection realms, and figured that I could probably land a lucrative position somewhere in this ever-dangerous world. I had done some stage acting with a travelling troupe back in high school, but acting wasn’t really on my radar.
So after I pulled the pin, I took some time off, and away, to decompress, and travel. I visited my far-flung family, and knocked around in the banana republics for awhile. Brushed up on my Spanish, did some surfing, yoga, and learned to spin fire poi. Latin America taught me how little one really needs to find la pura vida, and I got to thinking that maybe I didn’t need that well-paying job, working for the man, after all. And I lost any inclination to work for anyone other than myself, ever again. To be handed another Blackberry, with the mantle of responsibility, had lost its luster.
Upon my return to the States, I began the process of downsizing and simplifying my life, and on a lark went in as an extra for the Kelsey Grammer vehicle Boss, which was filming in Chicago. I was just supposed to be a blur on the sidewalk as a politician’s campaign bus pulled up to HQ, but I could sense that the blocking and timing was all off. So when the principals disembarked the bus I stopped, opened the door for them, and followed then inside -into the next scene. It so happened that Mario Van Peebles was director of that episode, and he took a liking to me, pulling me into scenes, joshing around, even introducing me to an attractive actress. I had a blast.
So when my daughter later suggested I go in for an audition for a bit part in a short film, I went. When I got there I was a bit apprehensive, as some of the talent assembled looked vaguely familiar, while speaking in terms that I did not recognize. Then, halfway through my reading, the casting director held up her hand to stop me, and then reached for my copy of the sides. I felt I must have stunk up the room. But then she briefly conferred with the director, and handed me another side, this one for the principal, titular role. I got that part, and the acting bug.
FF: How has your history in law enforcement impacted your career in the entertainment industry?
RM: As a student of the human condition, one couldn’t ask for a better classroom than being a beat cop and first responder. It ain’t pretty, but it’s a front-row seat in an interactive play on Humanity -only for real. Deputy Sheriffs get called for literally everything and anything, 99% of which never make the news. Having handled countless domestic, family and neighbor disputes, I better understand the tensions and dynamics of a wide range of relationships. I understand the drama of our adversarial legal system, having been witness, plaintiff, and defendant. All of which helps me in finding a character, a voice, and an intention as an actor. On the other side of the camera, having dealt with psychopaths, rapists, gangsters, killers and lawyers, dealing with the relatively milder personality quirks of showbiz types is less daunting. The diplomacy learned in de-escalating conflicts on the streets comes in handy defusing on-set tiffs.
One unexpected takeaway derives from the discipline demanded. Not just in the paramilitary sense, although that no doubt has helped me along in terms of bearing, and professionalism. But rather in the sense that one has to learn to control one’s emotions; maintaining composure while delivering a death notification, keeping your cool while being spat in the face; your family threatened, suppressing fear from myriad threats. Keeping a lid on your emotions is a big part, and challenge of, the job. That’s kinda the conceit of Robocop, isn’t it? Weirdly, once trained to get a handle on an emotion, that handle inversely becomes somehow easier to find as an actor when revealing that emotion.
FF: How did you train for your career in acting?
RM: The improv and theatre training I received in high school stayed with me surprisingly intact. My time as the Sheriff’s presenter and video spokesman had me engaging audiences and getting comfortable in front of the camera. In the last few years I have studied with several respected and veteran acting coaches, and have attended a number of workshops and seminars. A disciple of no one particular style, I cherry-pick from Meisner, Method, Uta Hagen and Kevin Spacey, among others, for what works best for me. I have studied screenplay and story development from Bart Gavigan and John Truby. Sometimes the best training is actually just acting. The late, great Phillip Seymour Hoffman advised that, “If you get a chance to act, Act!” I learn a lot while on set, even during lesser productions. A lifelong learner, I feel that given my relatively late start in the industry, I have to drink from a firehose just to try and to catch up.
FF: What has been the most fascinating/challenging project you’ve worked on so far?
RM: Would probably be my current project, IMAGO. IMAGO is an indie feature dramatizing the horrors of sexual slavery and human trafficking. I portray the chief villain, and am also a producer. It is a relevant and socially-conscious story that needs telling, as art can influence attitudes. We are aligned with Songs Against Slavery, and A21 in the fight to end human trafficking.
Many of the challenges we’ve faced are well-known to indie filmmakers. As an example, with our 21 filming locations, we’ve been fortunate for the most part, but have had several back out when advised the topic involves sexual slavery, even when sent the script. And one day, upon everyone’s arrival on set at a seedy Wisconsin motel booked in advance for a scene, no staff was present; the proprietors having locked up and left town. You become adept at improvising and creative problem-solving.
FF: Tell us about the film IMAGO and your dual involvement as actor and producer.
RM: I was initially approached by writer/director Peter Mastne to play the chief villain, Logan, as he liked my portrayal of another antagonist in a prior pilot in which we both acted. I found the screenplay to be very well-written, and the story compelling. So when he asked me to also come on board as a producer, I readily accepted. Others have found that I have other talents to offer on the other side of the camera, and I’ve found that producing makes me a better actor, and vice-versa. In the collaborative world of low-budget indie filmmaking, you wind up wearing many hats. I’ve also been involved with funding, casting, locations, cinematography, and directing.
FF: What’s next on tap for Ric Morgan?
RM: Well, I’ve an AirRoom commercial that’s hitting the airwaves about now. And an episode of American Greed, in which I portray assassin Timothy Suckow airs Monday on CNBC. An NXT Productions short film, Scandalous, in which I co-star, has just been submitted for consideration to several upcoming festivals. I will be playing the mysterious Mansfield in an upcoming webseries episode of Dark County. And have been cast in three other independent feature films; as Capt. Howard Durant in the Lovecraftian thriller Iron Coffin, Trooper Sommers in the crime drama Traficante, and in a dual role as Uncle Earl/I.M.A.P. Scout Balthazar in the faith-based film Mercy Street: Rescue in the Holy Land. I also hope to expand further into voice-over work.