On Monday, March 6, Hofstra’s very own Joe Morton came back to campus as a part of the annual Shakespeare Festival. Morton is best known for his Emmy winning role as Eli/Rowan Pope on the hit series “Scandal.” He came to Hofstra in 1965 with the intention of being a psychology major, but after orientation he switched to drama.
“Everything I learned here I still employ today,” Morton said. “I had some great teachers.”
Morton’s time at Hofstra appeared to be difficult for the star. During his Shakespeare lecture in the Globe Theatre, he talked about how the color of his skin seemed to follow him around and how he was not given parts because he would “color the role.” Though he has noted that things have changed tremendously in the entertainment world, he also noted the need for more change in this “divided society.”
Shakespeare seems to have followed Morton around throughout his life and career. While preparing for “Scandal,” Morton was also in the middle of preparing for “Romeo and Juliet” on Broadway, where he played Lord Capulet. When his arch on the show was finished, he said Shonda Rhimes, the creator of “Scandal,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “How to Get Away With Murder,” said, “No, no, you can’t do it.”
“Shonda wasn’t aware that I was on my way to Broadway,” Morton said. “She just hired me as a recurring character … It was interesting then that I kind of got the best of both worlds. In the beginning of season three, suddenly I have all these wonderful monologues. It’s as if she gave me my cake so I could eat it as well.”
When it comes to the series and its twists and turns, Morton won’t give up any information. At the moment “Papa Pope,” as he has come to be called, seems like he might be the mastermind behind the assassination of President-elect Frankie Vargas. When asked if Rowan had anything to do with the death, Morton said, “You will find out eventually.”
Fans of the show know that Morton’s character is a very big protector of the republic. In recent political times it seems like we need more of that than ever. In regards to how Papa Pope would handle the recent administration, Morton said, “He would be figuring out who in the administration needs to go. That would be the process. He wouldn’t do anything to change or interfere [with] what is going on with Trump. He might smash his telephone, but other than that he would just try to figure out who in the Trump administration is interfering with the republic.”
Morton also gave advice to Hofstra drama majors. “The thing is things have changed, obviously, a lot. I think that young students coming out of university, if you only have a B.A. in the theatre, you are going to be up against people with master’s degrees and they seem to get first pick [be]cause they have a little bit more experience, a little bit more knowledge when it comes to things like Shakespeare and those kinds of things.”
“So in that way, things have changed a lot. The other thing is that there are more people who want to be actors, so finding a role, finding an agent, doing all those things is just harder to do because there are more people to compete against. My strongest advice is to have faith in who you are. Figure out how to keep yourself alive artistically,” Morton said.