Theater Spotlight: Interview with Jennifer Morrison

TV and Film Star & Director Returns to the Stage

Jennifer Morrison is probably best known for her TV and film work on ABC’s current hit Once Upon A Time, House, and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, but many might not know that she’s one of Hollywood’s rising female directors as well as a trained stage actor. Having debuted on Broadway in 2010’s The Miracle Worker, Morrison is back on stage this summer in The End of Longing, the playwriting and stage acting debut of Friends star Matthew Perry.

The play centers around the relationships of four people including an alcoholic, an escort, a neurotic, and a dimwit. Jennifer Morrison plays Stephanie, the high-end escort. Jennifer spoke with NYC Monthly about the thrill it was to finally return to the theater, how she schooled herself as a director, and why New York is her city…

You made your Broadway debut in 2010 in The Miracle Worker. How did you decide to return to the stage and how did you come to be attached to Matthew Perry’s The End of Longing (which he wrote and is co-starring with you in)?

I started on stage very young. I don’t remember even not wanting to do it; it’s been a part of me forever. I was in every school play, and I majored in theater at Loyola and studied at Steppenwolf (Theatre Company) and moved to LA. I was pretty tied up with House when I was in LA; you need so much time for rehearsal and previews and the show running. When I was no longer on House, it opened up the opportunity to do more theater. Not long after that I was tied up again on Once Upon a Time.

I was looking for shows that would fit into my hiatuses but nothing fit the window right. Now that my contract is wrapped for Once Upon a Time, I told my agent I was open to theater opportunities again. Once I read the play, and I loved the character and was excited about the chance to work with Matthew, it was just a quick process to jump in. It felt meant to be in that way because it came together really quickly. Nothing makes me happier than being on the stage.

Do you have a funny anecdote, one- liner, or situation from one of your own relationships that you think may somehow be mirrored in the show?

I mean, I’m playing a high-end escort so it’s a tough one. Well, I can definitely say the show is very much a comedy and has very humorous moments. Comedy is always born out of something real and definitely something tragic, so there’s a lot stewing. Matthew is an alcoholic, and my character is attracted to the money and the control. And they fall in love and have to face the facts that they have these wounds from their past and are trying to find a way to connect and figure out some time to find a healthy form of intimacy. With anything we all come with baggage in life, we all come from relationship challenges and things from our childhood. I think there is something very universal and human in the way it comes out in the play.

You grew up in Chicago and moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting. What do you enjoy about New York that is different or that you might not get elsewhere?

New York has always felt like home to me. I love that the city never sleeps and that there’s always something new and inspiring going on. New York is just that city for me. I’m always newly inspired by an art opening or a play I’ve seen. There were times I would visit when I was doing Once Upon a Time and I’d see five shows in four days or go to the ballet for three nights in a row. I just get really lit up by the arts community, so New York really feeds me that way.

The End of Longing is a play about relationships, a comedy with conflicted characters: a drunk, a prostitute, a neurotic, and a total goofball. There’s a lot of humor here – animated characters. What do you think will be most thrilling to audiences about this particular show?

It’s so hard to know. I feel like, you never know going into something until you have a live audience what is going to stir people up. For me, I was drawn to the fact that it drew upon these relationships and what people are dealing with and are excited about. The way we are drawn to romance, and the way we are drawn to damage and how complicated that is. When I see film or a TV show or theater, I’m drawn to things that make you laugh but that also make you think.