Distinguished Alumni: Inspirational words from Lamorne Morris


photo credit: Elizabeth Barbosa

The Distinguished Alumni Awards took place at COD, and actor Lamorne Morris talks about his career, advice, coming back to school and more.

Mariana Quezada, Staff Writer
The Courier

“I honestly thought this was a joke.”

COD alumnus Lamorne Morris explains to me, referring to the “Distinguished Alumni Awards” where he was recognized Sept. 18th at the McAninch Center for the Arts along with other alumni: Dr. Maureen Dunne (Class of ‘95), David Govertsen (‘99), Lori Swanson (‘15) and Angel M. Traub (‘96). He was, in fact, not jokingly invited to the “Awards”. Morris studied here on an acting scholarship and graduated in 2003, and was awarded at the ceremony for his achievements in the entertainment industry, most notably for his role as Winston Bishop in the acclaimed FOX comedy “New Girl.” 

Due to his charm and history with COD, lots of students wanted to meet Morris.

“I don’t even know what the ceremony is about, if I’m being honest,” one student bluntly explained to me. “I just wanted to meet him. He is such an inspiration.” 

Before the ceremony, Morris agreed to be interviewed. During his speech, he joked with his family, giving them his award for them to “finally respect him.” However, he also expressed heartfelt words, thanking his family, friends and especially the faculty of the school who helped him become the actor he’s now. 

One of Morris’s past teachers at COD, Amelia Barrett, commented on him saying, “He was an absolute joy and honestly, has not changed a bit. He is just as down to earth and kind now, which is so refreshing considering all the success he has had over the years.”

After the ceremony, though, I was able to capture a more earnest side of the actor. Firstly, he greeted some fans. Later, he explained his gratitude to people who support him and follow his career. Finally, I got to the interview. 

How does it feel to be back here at COD for the Distinguished Alumni Awards?

It feels great. I went to the school to learn, and you never think that you will become a “success story” from it. Like I said in the speech, it was firstly a convenience since I lived across the street, but now it’s been the greatest experience of my life. The biggest learning experience. I’m completely honored and humbled by it.

Throughout your career, how do you think your education at COD helped you succeed?

I probably say I’d give it (COD)  a good 75% of why I am where I am today. There’s like a baseline of education you need to know to do what I do. I learned most of that here, everything down to preparation, what you do the night before, breaking down characters, doing whatever you need to do to develop a character. I use those basics with every character I do. Then you just learn from experience, but the foundation and the fundamentals definitely started here.

What advice would you give new COD students such as myself and everyone here?

Quit. (laugh)

Thank you. Great. 

The advice is that if you want to be successful at what you do, you’re already there. That’s the first step. A lot of people don’t have the confidence in themselves to believe that they can accomplish their wildest dreams. When you put the work and time in it’ll happen; it’s a matter of effort. 

And if it’s doable, if you’ve seen someone do it, you can do it. So that would be the advice. It sounds cliche, but nothing beats hard work, like nothing. And also find time for free time. So, I still find time to go hang out with friends. Do whatever you used to do that has nothing to do with work, cause it definitely refreshes your brain a little bit.

I agree. Great. Are there any memorable or grateful experiences you had here at COD?

Yes, a lot. (laugh) I will say probably day one taking class. Craig Berger was a teacher of mine. He was my first experience with a serious, scary teacher. He would stare at you with piercing eyes and say: ‘I don’t believe you.’ 

Oh. (He laughs)

But I went through it. So, nothing scares me in this business anymore because I dealt with very stern teachers. Stern but playful teachers, once you get past that thick layer of skin. That was my most memorable experience, watching him on stage stare at me and say: ‘I don’t believe you.’

Diving into your career, what are the roles you found more interesting or challenging to play for theater students, specifically interesting? How do you manage those roles? Any tips?

There are roles I find challenging. I think when you set out to do something, you wanna challenge yourself. Otherwise, you can become unfulfilled.

New Girl was definitely a role that was challenging because it was my first big opportunity on center stage for the world to see. There’s a saying: DARE TO SUCK. You have to be bold. (Performers) have to suck and take that leap.

So, that would be some advice that I’d give students who find themselves with a daunting thing in front of them: just do it, apologize later. 

Finally, what would you say to a freshman-you beginning school at COD now in this retrospective moment?

‘It’s gonna be fine.’ I was nervous and would try to talk myself out of doing every play, and I had to do every play. I’d go: ‘Nope, say you’re sick. Say you got hit by a car. Go get hit by a car.’ But once I got on stage, I was like, ‘This is where I love to be.’

We (actors) are always having fun. It’s our passion, and when it’s your passion, it’s not work. It’s art and it’s for everyone else. It’s for yourself, too. So you shouldn’t take yourself so seriously.