Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest today actor, novelist, singer, playwright, former producer, broadcasting and advertising executive, Morrow Wilson.
Morrow has acted in summer stock, New York supper clubs, daytime and prime time TV, several films, and several commercials. He is the widower of Rue McClanahan (best known for Blanche on The Golden Girls). He has been cast in more than 100 New York City stage productions, including eight musicals. His latest novel is David Sunshine.
Norm: Good day Morrow and thanks for participating in our interview.
How did you get started in acting and what kept you going?
Morrow: Good day to you, Norm. As to acting, I have always acted. Not just the shows in the garage actors always tell you they put on as children, but even more central, since mine was a nomadic childhood, my two brothers and I kept it together by creating an on-going drama (comedy, really) full of adventures and characters. We satirized everything from cowboy movies to politics. So we invented dictators, singers who couldn't remember their lyrics, inept jail guards, restaurants with terrible service, and more. We were in effect writing and acting a whole rep company, practically on a daily basis. So, as to your question, we always kept it going. In fact, to this day, we still do.
Norm: How much research do you undertake for a role and how do you set about working on your roles?
Morrow: Some roles require a great deal of research. How does a character with such and such a job walk and talk? What are his concerns, his day dreams, what are his passions, his turn-offs, so forth. That's why a lot of actors may hang out at a cop bar, a disco, a grocery store, depending on the part, to observe certain people's behavior
Most roles, however, do not involve even the possibility of that kind of research. I can't hang out at Elsinore, for example, and, even if I could, there would be very little going on there relative to Hamlet. And, of course, Shakespeare had never been there either. No, most of an actor's research and preparation comes from two places: outside life as s/he observes it and inside life as s/he feels it.
What has been the best part of being an actor, singer, novelist,
playwright, producer and advertising executive?
Morrow: They once asked Fred Astaire how he would characterize his dancing; after all, it wasn't ballroom, or jazz, or tap, or modern, but it included them all -- and more. Astaire thought a long moment and replied: Well, I guess it's just this crazy mixed-up kind of dancing that I do."
So the best part of working with, describing, imitating the behavior of, human beings is you are always telling a story. Underline that. One of the reasons some actors -- not all, I hasten to say -- think of James Dean as a guy "with a lot of potential" is that he didn't always understand about moving the story along. He would often stop telling the story in favor of a lot of look-at-me stuff. Whether it's a portrayal, a novel, a play, even a commercial or a song, the best part is the story.
Norm: What sorts of parts have you been drawn to and why?
Morrow: I'm drawn to light comedy, first and foremost. I can't resist Shakespeare's great plays (though I get bored with his bad ones). I love playing the classics and new plays by new playwrights, though often flawed, are exciting to me, too.
Norm: What would you like to say to actors who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep acting, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?
Morrow: Confidence is always the actor's main problem. Thus, all that studying. Rightly so. Ours is a profession and, in the same way we wouldn't want an unlicensed pilot flying our next trip to California, we need training to develop a technique so solid it cannot leave us. In the end, acting is about as spontaneous as brain surgery.
The development of an actor comes in three stages. First, s/he thinks s/he's a lot better than s/he really is. (That gives her or him the nerve to go out there on stage in the first place.) Then, second, if s/he works and works, s/he becomes as good as s/he thinks s/he is. Third, if the actor is very lucky s/he becomes better than s/he thinks s/he is.
But all artists walk a thin line between sublime self-confidence and abject terror. An artist who ceases to have that problem ceases to be an artist.
Norm: What served as the primary inspiration for David Sunshine and could you tell us a little about the book?
Morrow: Two inspirations: my experiences with my first job after graduating from college, working for David Susskind on his talk show, OPEN END; next, the ancient Greek romances concerning the innocent country boy who comes to the big city.
Norm: What purpose do you believe your story serves and what matters to you about the story?
Morrow: David Sunshine is a social novel -- by which I mean it's tension comes from the conflict between the way things are and the way they ought to be. That is a moral judgment, of course, that all social novelists make. It is in the same spirit as Dickens. It is also a comedy in the spirit of Mark Twain, who told hard truths in such a way that he made you laugh. Finally, it is in the tradition of novels like The Great Gatsby, The Day of the Locust and All the King's Men, novels about the people who pursue the American Dream.
Norm: What has been the best part about being published?
Morrow: It brings the same pride and joy as sending your child out into the world.
Norm: What's the most difficult thing for you about being a writer and how do you keep focused?
Morrow: Focus is not a problem for me; but making a living is. I've written books when I was employed, unemployed, sick, well. But the average writer makes less than the average actor who, in turn, makes less than the average fruit-picker. So it is not uncommon for people, when they find out you're an actor or writer, to ask, "And what do you do for a living?"
Norm: In fiction as well as in non-fiction, writers very often take liberties with their material to tell a good story or make a point.But how much is too much?
Morrow: It's only too much when it's not truthful.
How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing and do you
have a specific writing style?
Morrow: The upbringing part we've already discussed. And, no, I try very hard not to have a writing style. I think we only have a few stories to tell -- maybe only one -- and that therefore the challenge is to use as many styles as we can.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and David Sunshine?
David Sunshine is on Amazon with many pages free for the reading. As
for me, I'm on Facebook, LinkedIn, and on MY BLOGSPOT
There's a little on Google, but it tends to be tied up with my dozen years of marriage to my late wife.
Norm: What is next for Morrow Wilson?
Morrow: Another book, another role, another supper club act, perhaps another job in the marketing world for a good cause. All those things are in the works.
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Morrow: I guess I'd like to summon up my best advice for all of us: Do what you most want to do. Do it as well as you can. And remember what Anthony Hopkins said: "What other people think of me is none of my business."
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.
Follow Here To Purchase David Sunshine: A Novel of the Communications Industry