Joe Morton’s latest claim to fame is playing Rowan Pope, the villainous head of B613 on the hit ABC show Scandal (premieres Thursday, 9/8c). He’s also Olivia Pope’s (Kerry Washington) father and the creator of some of the most deliciously dramatic, downright dirty monologues on TV — seriously, we’re still not over his infamous “I am a man” speech. In his intriguing new show Proof, which debuted this summer on TNT, the actor keeps the serious streak going as the intimidating surgeon Dr. Charles Richmond.
With the return of the gladiators in the white hats, the Emmy Award-winning actor talked about his favorite Papa Pope moments and what the real difference is between a boy and a man.
Actor you’d love to see narrate the story of your life:
I’d love to see Key & Peele tag team my life story.
Brain surgeon or the head of B613 — which job is harder:
Brain surgery is a procedure that must follow the Hippocratic Oath, “First, do no harm.” B613, or more specifically Command, is “The Hand of God.” So, it’s a no-brainer. “The Hand of God” wins hands down… or up, as the case may be.
Character you’ve played that you wouldn’t mind playing again:
I would love to do The Brother, from The Brother from Another Planet as someone who has been moving around the country for the past 30 years having to deal with being an illegal alien.
Describe yourself in one sentence:
I am someone who interprets the world through art. At least that’s what it says on my Twitter page.
Embarrassing story you’re ready to share with the world:
When I was a kid, I used to bang my head on my pillow in order to get to sleep. I was literally knocking myself out.
Favorite Papa Pope monologue:
Any time I get to castrate… I mean castigate Fitz is fun, but my favorite is “The boy” speech.
GIF that accurately describes how you feel today:
What’s a GIF?
Hardest thing you had to do on camera:
High heels make most women’s legs look great, but you truly understand the cost when you wear them, as I did on New York Undercover… PAIN!!!
Interesting person you met recently:
Last winter, I went to Washington, D.C. for a SAG mentoring initiative and met President Barak Obama. While everyone else was wearing suits, I wore a black T-shirt with an image of him as Superman. He thought it was “a very good-looking T-shirt.”
Job you’d probably have if you weren’t an actor:
If I hadn’t become an actor, I think I would have become a pilot.. or a singer/songwriter… or a psychologist. Sounds like the kind of answer a little kid might give.
Karaoke song you slay:
I’m not crazy about karaoke, but I do a very cool jazz/blues version of “On Broadway”.
Last movie you streamed:
I don’t remember the last movie I streamed, but I think it was some chick flick my girlfriend made me watch.
Movie you saw as a child that scared you even though it wasn’t meant to be scary:
I suppose all the movies I saw as a child were scary. All those people doing what ever they wanted seemed pretty frightening.
Nineties movie you were in that you loved filming and why:
’90s movies I loved doing:
• Terminator 2: Judgement Day — My first big-budget film.
• Speed — Great action flick, loved working with Keanu, Jeff, and Sandra.
• Inkwell — Matty Rich’s second film; Glynn, Vanessa, Suzanne and I had so much fun we were afraid we ruined the movie.
• Blues Brothers 2000 — Working and singing with all those musicians was some of the most fun I had working on a movie. The first song I sang was live, against a pre-recorded track, with James Brown and Sam Moore.
• Lone Star — Was a wonderful father/son relationship. A lot of my relationship with my real dad was part of that performance… plus anything by John Sayles is a joy to perform. (And on that film, I got to hang out and swap tunes with Kris Kristofferson.)
• Executive Decision — We spent 72 hours at Fort Bragg training and interacting with special forces, very scary. None of us were big on guns, but we all came back very gung-ho.
• Of Mice and Men — Of the scenes I’ve acted, one of my favorites is in this film, with John Malkovich. It’s a scene between Crooks and Lenny. It was really electric playing off each other!
Guess I liked the ’90s, and couldn’t pick just one.
Olivia Pope or Rowan Pope— Who would win a shouting match:
I believe, so far, I’m winning.
Papa Pope words of wisdom for all the twentysomethings of the world today:
The two things most important, besides self-preservation, are your family and the Republic. So, get and stay educated about politics, make as much money as you can, then stay in the shadows, and use what you know.
Question you would ask a historic figure and who would you ask?
To Martin Luther King, Jr., “What was your immediate thought when you realized you’d been assassinated?”
Revelations you’ve had about your Scandal and Proof co-stars:
The greatest revelation was that both casts are well-knit ensembles.
Song that never fails to pump you up:
“Giant Steps” by John Coltrane, or anything by Robert Johnson, or any song my Lietzeenut (my girlfriend) wants to dance to.
Thoughts you have when you look back at your role on Terminator 2: Judgement Day:
Three things come to mind when I think of T2: How buff Linda was, how intimidating to the crew James Cameron was, and how interesting it was to create my own death. (My death scene was inspired by a car accident I had been in years before when I punctured my lungs; that’s why I was breathing the way I was. So, in this case, art was truly imitating life.)
Up-and-coming band you hope makes it big soon:
Vance Gilbert. He’s been up and coming for 20 years. He has “the voice of an angel, the wit of a devil, and the guitar playing of a god.” He’s a friend and not much younger than I am, so I hope he makes it big soon, before one of us dies.
Villain from the big or small screen that creeps you out:
It’s the real life villains that creep me out: mass murderers with automatic weapons, child molesters/child pornographers, ISIS chopping off peoples’ heads, or politicians who are less worried about helping improve this country than they are about getting elected. I probably watch too much news.
What is the real difference between a boy and a man?
A man, understanding the consequences of his actions, stands on his own two feet as he goes after what he wants or needs. A boy is coddled and cared for, pampered and hugged, while sitting, entitled, on someone else’s shoulders.
Since we will not ask for your favorite “X word,” we will simply ask for your shameless plug here:
When you move through the jungles of LA, it’s best to be in a Jaguar. #IGoodToBeBad #JaguarUSA
YouTube video you’re showing all of your friends:
I don’t spend much time on YouTube unless it’s for research. However, I’m sure my nephew would love for me to show you this: GO JACKSON! GO JACKSON!
If you didn’t know Zimbio was an entertainment site, what would you think “a Zimbio” was?’
I would think Zimbio might be a bio plant that simulates organic tissue, or it could be the name of a clown, or a kid song (Z-I-M-Bio), or it could be … some kind of fruit cocktail.
'Scandal' Star Joe Morton Answers Our 26 Burning Questions