Best known for her role as Jennifer Rappaport in One Life to Live, Jessica Morris had a very busy but successful 2017 and following the announcement that her most recent show, The Ladies of The Lake, has now renewed for a second season, fans will be seeing a lot more of Jessica in the coming months. ThisIsTheLatest chatted with Jessica to find out more about her childhood ambitions, her thoughts on social media and her love of all things ‘cheese’.
TITL: At what age did you first realise you wanted to be an actress? Has that always been your ultimate ambition or did you have other career dreams going up?
Jessica Morris: I made the definite decision to become an actress at around age 16. Before that, I wanted to be a dancer and had taken classes since I was a young child. And I was toying around with becoming a psychologist. Studying human behavior is incredibly interesting to me and luckily that activity still exists in my acting life.
TITL: When it came to pursing your career, which actors/actresses did you admire and was there one film or TV series that ultimately made you think ‘Yeah, that’s what I want to do?’
JM: It wasn’t one actress or film that made me want to become an actress myself. I just always loved getting swept up in a story and imaginary world. The actors always looked so glamorous and free and I yearned to have an outlet like that where I could express all of the feelings that I had inside.
TITL: You’re perhaps best known for your role of Jennifer Rappaport in One Life to Live. Just how much did that role and the show change/impact your career trajectory?
JM: Well, it got my career started and I’m so grateful for that. I also learned so much about myself as a person and an actor. It helped to build my confidence.
TITL: 2017 was a particularly busy year for you, with December in particular bringing you to much wider attention thanks to two TV movies, A Christmas Cruise and The Wrong Man airing on December 16th and 29th respectively. Were you ever at all apprehensive about taking on ‘Christmas’ movie related roles given that they occasionally get a bad, or ‘cheesy’ tagline of sorts? What drew you to the roles and what was the viewer response like?
JM: I wasn’t hesitant at all. I love cheese! Who doesn’t? Cheddar, Brie, Christmas movies, bring it on! It got a great response and I think that sometimes people appreciate a light-hearted, easy-to-watch movie like that, that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
TITL: How did you get involved in your current project, Ladies Of The Lake? What was it about the show and the character you now play, Crystal Amhurst, that drew you in? Had you read the novel it’s based on prior to auditioning?
JM: I was offered the part of Crystal on Ladies of the Lake and I thought the character was so entertaining and that she had many layers. I was also drawn to the fact that the female characters became very empowered at the end, even if it was in a criminal way.
TITL: How excited/relieved are you now that the show has been renewed for a second season?
JM: I’m very excited to go into production on Ladies of the Lake season 2. It is going to be sexier, edgier and much more action-packed.
TITL: Of all the industry professionals/fellow actors and actresses you’ve worked with over the years, who do you feel you most clicked with and do you have any funny moments or stories from sets you could share?
JM: When you film a movie, or shoot a TV show, you become so close to the other actors and the crew. You see them every day for many hours and share emotionally intimate moments with them. Also, the adrenaline is pumping and moods are elevated because most people there are doing what they are most passionate about. So, after every production I feel like I’ve met my new soul mate or new best friend. But after the high wears off, you are happy to just stay in touch with some of them. Best case scenario, they actually do remain one of your best friends. Like Melissa Archer, who I worked on One Life to Live with, or some of my other best friends, Robin Sydney and Roopashree Jeevaji who I also met on set.
TITL: Are there any other projects in the pipeline you can tell me about?
JM: I’m just finishing up my second draft of a script that I will also star in.
TITL: How do you feel about social media, and do you pay much attention to what users post, both positive and negative, on sites like Twitter?
JM: I think that social media is a great tool for actors. Everyone has a right to their opinions but I don’t think it’s cool for people to post negative comments. I just don’t understand the mentality behind wanting to make someone else feel bad. It’s totally different if they are talking about the character. But if it becomes personal, I think it’s disrespectful and unnecessary.
TITL: What’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about you/your work?
JM: I’ve luckily gotten a lot of wonderful feedback from fans on social media. It’s amazing when they tag certain shows or networks, basically pushing ideas to try and help move your career forward. It’s way above and beyond and makes me feel so supported to have people that I’ve never even met believe in my dreams like that. It means so much.
TITL: What advice would you give to anyone looking to follow in your footsteps? What three things/skills would you say they need to master or acquire?
JM: I would say that they need to learn how to be vulnerable and open in front of the camera, but hard as a rock off camera. It’s a strange dichotomy. But finding that balance is key to surviving the industry.
TITL: If you were to win an Oscar and had only thirty seconds to deliver your thank you speech, what would you say and who would you dedicate the award to?
JM: I would thank the people who have had faith in me, even in times when I have lost it in myself. My mom, my manager, my friends who have encouraged me. There is a long list!
TITL: Finally then, whose career would you most like to emulate and what would you most like to be remembered for in terms of your work and career?
JM: I don’t want to emulate anyone. I want to be me. I want to be known for that. For showing a part of myself that hopefully makes people feel something when they watch me.
For more information on Jessica Morris, visit her website or follow her on Twitter. Header photo credit: Tim Schaeffer.
Having been in the entertainment business since she was 10
years old, Andrea Evans is no stranger to the highs and lows of Hollywood, but
the events of recent years involving the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby
and the ever growing #MeToo movement have now seen her add another bow to her
already impressive resume, as a producer of the new documentary Rocking The Couch. The documentary
features interviews with many victims of Hollywood sexual assault, as well as
several individuals who were involved in the Wallace Kaye case of 1992 and takes
a long hard look at the cases both past and present and the valuable lessons
that, for the most part, still haven’t been learnt. With the documentary proving
to be a huge success, ThisIsTheLatest
spoke to Andrea about why she got involved, whether she might one day move into
directing and where and when fans can see her on screen next.
TITL: Rocking The Couch is largely fuelled
firstly by the case, led by twelve women who were brave enough to speak out,
brought against Wallace Kaye in 1992. For anyone who is unaware of the story,
could you sum it up for me and explain ultimately how it’s impacted this
Andrea Evans: A lot of documentaries tend to follow their
own path and that’s exactly what happened with this one. My co-executive
producer, friend and director Minh Collins and I were first only going to
interview people from the past few years or thereabouts and build the
documentary around that, but then my husband brought to my attention the case
brought against Wallace Kaye, as you say, in 1992, in Hollywood. The fact he
had to bring this to my attention is kind of the whole point – I was an
actress, living in Hollywood in the 1990’s and I’d never heard this story, or
anything to do with it. The story itself is led by 12 young, aspiring
actresses, interviewing with a talent agent at the time who then sexually
assaulted each of them. They went to their unions to complain, the unions told
them to forget about it and then finally, one of the actresses, who wasn’t with
a union, called the police who got involved, and these women took him to court
You would think that that would make news, and that there
would be a lot of attention about it, but there never was. When I started
interviewing people about the case, they were shocked because I was the first
person who had ever contacted them. That became sort of the main feature, the
meat of the documentary was this case – how did it happen and why, and also why
didn’t we hear anything about it.
TITL: As an actress
yourself, is the behaviour and attitudes towards women addressed in Rocking The Couch something you’ve
experienced yourself or is it something you just feel passionate about enough
to have done something to help stand against it and spread the word?
AE: I think pretty much every actress in Hollywood – and a
lot of actors too – we don’t want to leave men out of this, I think it’s a very
big issue with and for them as well, particularly with gay men – but yes, we
all have stories. My stories, thank goodness, were not as traumatic as some of
the stories we feature in the documentary. We did interview me, as well, as one
of the subjects, but my stories were not that good in comparison to other
people’s so I had to put myself on the cutting room floor – something that I
never thought I would actually do, or say I’ve done. We also bring up the fact
that, I think we have some interviews with Carrie Mitchum, the grand-daughter
of the famous actor Robert Mitchum, where she discusses how we all knew this
was going on and that’s true – we all did. If you heard from celebrities who
said they were blind-sided or didn’t know about it, they’re lying, because we
all knew, and we all saw it. It was definitely something that needed to come
out into the light, needed to be addressed and needs to stop.
TITL: Exactly how
shocked are you that lessons weren’t, and, as proven by the scores of recent
cases made against a number of men in the industry, haven’t been learned in the
more than two decades that have passed since the Kaye case?
AE: I think society is changing and that’s why you and I are
having this conversation. I think the way society looks at sexual abuse and
sexual assault, certainly in the workplace, is changing. And maybe social media
has something to do with this, but I think as a society, we are now finally starting
to actually pay attention to the victims, to listen to what they are saying.
You’re a woman and I’m sure you’ve heard these things before, you know ‘dress
appropriately’ ‘You don’t wanna do this…’ It shouldn’t be the way that a woman
dresses that makes her the victim of a crime. But yet, so many women, who have
been a victim of these crimes, are accused are bringing said crime upon
themselves, because there’s something in or about their behaviour, and I think
as a society we’re finally looking at that, paying attention to what happened
to these women.
My favourite instance I bring up about how society, in more
recent times, is how we look at all these instances in the Catholic church.
Priests have been accused of abusing young boys, and we never asked these young
boys the sort of things that have been asked of women over the years – we took
them at their word. Why wasn’t that the case with the women who spoke out? Why
weren’t they taken at their word, for all these decades? That’s the more
TITL: You’ve said in
the past that this documentary presents a “realistic view of what happened” and
that it includes “things that (you don’t think) the mainstream media did.” What
exactly do you mean by that?
AE: Certainly when we were bringing to light the Weinstein
case, I don’t think the mainstream media paid much attention to the struggle
undertaken by actresses – and actors – trying to get into the business, and
that, to my mind, is where most of the abuse happened. Abuse often happens to
the most vulnerable, and because there’s no real path towards becoming an actor
or actress, much like becoming a lawyer or doctor, there have been a lot of
people who’ve taken advantage of that – people anxious to get their foot in the
door of the industry. They’re eager and anxious…and that’s where and when the
majority of these people end up in trouble.
It’s easier to get a film about A-List celebrities who are
being abused or to get that on the evening news, because we all like to hear
about celebrities, but that’s not the case for the majority of these cases.
They’re people who are just trying to get into the industry.
TITL: If for
instance, the #MeToo movement hadn’t started up and women hasn’t started
speaking up, do you think you’d have still made this documentary and released
it, or is it something you were ultimately spurred on to do as a result of the
outpouring of outrage that came with the accusations and cases made against the
likes of Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby?
AE: I would love to think that I would’ve made this movie
anyway because I do feel strongly about this issue, but I also know that when
the Weinstein and Cosby cases first came to light, my partner and I were just
having coffee and got to thinking about how someone should really look into
this, and could make a great documentary out of it, and we sort of looked at
one another and both had the same idea – ‘Why not us? Let’s do this.’
I was inspired by the #MeToo movement and driven to tell
what we feel is the true story, and to try and show it from several different
angles, including Carrie Mitchum’s remarks that we all saw it. I saw instances
in my working career of women that were being approached and maybe took
producers up on their approach – I certainly saw that – and said nothing, as
did many people. I’m glad now that we can get it out in the open and tell what’s
really been happening.
TITL: You co-produced
this documentary with your director from The
Hit List Minh Collins and Jerry Sommer. What would you say you each
brought, in creative terms, to the documentary?
AE: Minh was the director and obviously, having directed
before, he was able to pull it all together and put into the shape it is now.
Jerry did a lot of the filming as well and the editing. I know from my own
part, that it was extremely important to have a woman on board and I went to
every interview, even if I wasn’t asking the questions – I wanted to be there
to show my support for every single woman, and so that she would feel more
comfortable and know that there was someone there who would understand her
point of view. They were being brave enough to tell their story and I just
wanted to be there to help, in any way I could, to make telling that a little
easier for them.
I also sought out a lot of the people you saw and see on the
air – I was the one that got in touch with them, and I don’t want to say ‘convinced’
because a lot of the people that came forward, even the people on the Wallace
Kaye case – the lawyers, the victims, the very brave policewoman who went in,
knowing she would probably be assaulted, but wanted to be there for those women
and without her, the case would never have come out – they were all very
anxious to tell their story. They wanted the truth to come out and I think it
was therapeutic for them. Hopefully, my being a woman helped them with that.
A huge part of why I got involved with this is that I am
loaning my celebrity to this movie, in publicising it and trying to get it out
there so people pay attention. There are so many good films and documentaries
that go completely unnoticed, that don’t get the attention they deserve and
that’s a big part of my contribution to this film.
TITL: How has the
reaction been to the film so far and, what do you most want those who see it to
take away/learn from it?
AE: I have been thrilled with the reaction. Here in the States,
it’s been really big – it keeps growing and growing. We’re now being
distributed, with Amazon, to pretty much every country that speaks English, and
the interest in the UK has been steadily growing as well, which I am very happy
and pleased to see. It’s very gratifying – I’ve never been a producer really, I’ve
never had this experience of creating something from the very beginning and
taking it out to audience and getting their response. I hope the viewers in the
UK will check it out, look at it and see our work and let us know what they
think. Amazon has been so happy we’re now talking about an addition documentary,
so any comments people have, any ideas, I would love to hear them.
TITL: Is there
anything you can tell me about this potential second documentary or are you
still sketching out ideas etc. for now?
AE: We’re still sketching out the ideas for it, so I can’t
really tell you anything about it, but I would love to talk to you about it
when it is released. I’m so thrilled that I’m even able to talk about it and
that this one has been so successful – that kind of blows my mind, having been
a first time producer in particular.
TITL: Looking to the
future, do you think the likes of the #MeToo movement can, as we’ve seen make
an impact, but one big enough to actually eradicate the sort of behaviour that
the documentary focusses on? What more can and needs to be done to ensure
incidents like those so many women have spoken out about in recent months never
happen again and that those who are actively involved in such are punished in a
AE: We’ve yet to see how big of an impact all this has and
that’s gonna take some time. Hopefully our daughters and grand-daughters won’t
have to deal with this kind of subject, which brings to mind another reason and
part as to why we did the documentary. My daughter happened to be on break from
school when we were fifteen and she wanted to come to the set. I was a little
wary about that – she is not quite fifteen – and I wondered whether or not I
wanted her to hear these stories. She wants to go into the entertainment
industry so I thought ‘yeah, she should hear these stories’, because the really
only true way to prevent these kinds of situations is to truly do everything in
your own power to prevent it. Even if the #MeToo movement has a HUGE amount of
success, even if it reduces these sorts of problems by 90%, there will still be
that 10% where things happen. So the best way for people to eliminate it is to
protect themselves and I hope that men and women who want to go into the
entertainment industry will watch this documentary and use it as a bit of a
cautionary tale. My daughter said she learned a huge amount from watching it,
like how to minimise your risk by doing things like not going out for drinks
with someone who’s trying to help you break into the industry. Minimise the
risk as much as possible, and hopefully that will help that 10% I referred to
TITL: Where do you go
from here then? Do you maybe want to move into the directors’ chair next time or
are you happy where you are, producing and giving your name and status to a
cause or a film you’re passionate about and eager to help get the word out
AE: I really enjoyed the producing. At some point yes, I
would love to try my hand at directing and might have a little go during the
next documentary just to see how I get on, but my main bread and butter is my
acting career. I love it and I love the industry – it pains me to have to do
documentaries about such a negative aspect of a business that I’ve been in
since I was 10 years old, and that has been very good to me – so hopefully I
can help it, and help maintain some of the integrity of this business in my own
little way because I really do love it.
TITL: Finally then, in
terms of your acting career, have you got any projects in the pipeline you can
tell me about?
AE: I don’t know what airs in the UK, and that’s a problem,
but I am in series available on Amazon Prime called The Bay – which is so much fun to do. I’m working with a lot of
people I’ve worked with before in other situations, and I just came on in
season four as a real troublemaker and I believe I will be making a lot of
trouble in season 5 which will air next year. People can watch me there.
Rocking The Couch
is via all VOD platforms including Amazon and Vimeo now. To keep up to
date with Andrea Evans, follow her on Twitter.
Doreen Taylor is no stranger to dreaming
big. With two music and performance related degrees under her belt, an array of
theatre production credits to her name and a successful career as a solo
artist, she’s ambitious and not afraid of people knowing it. After her
production “Sincerely, Oscar”, which she created and produced herself, had a
successful run in Philadelphia last year, the show has now moved to New York
and is currently undertaking a 14 week run at Theatre Row, Off-Broadway. In
between shows, Doreen kindly took the time to chat to ThisIsTheLatest about the creative process behind the show, her memories
of opening night and where Sincerely,
Oscar might go in the future.
First of all, for those unfamiliar with you and your background, can you just
give a little insight into your music and performing career?
Doreen Taylor: I’ve been performing for
many years now, and having earned myself degrees in both opera and voice performance,
I consider myself very fortunate to have been a part of some fantastic theatre
productions including Robert Ward’s The
Crucible, in which I played Abigail Williams, and Christine in Phantom Of The Opera. In terms of my
music, I released my first album Magic
back in 2012 while my latest album Happily
Ever After has received great reviews and is to hopefully become an
Off-Broadway musical in the next couple of years.
You’ve been pretty busy lately with your off Broadway show, Sincerely, Oscar, after a successful run
in Philadelphia last year. How does it feel to know you’re working on the same
streets and around the same venues as some of the biggest and most popular
musicals and shows in the world?
DT: It is pretty surreal. One of the very
first musicals I starred in when I was just a kid was “42nd Street”
and now here I am all these years later starring in my very first show I have
written in an iconic theater on 42nd STREET! It is pretty amazing
how life can just come around full circle and give affirmations that I have
been on the right path all along. I guess the most amazing part is that the
shows that we are honoring by the great Oscar Hammerstein all opened on
Broadway within one mile of where we are performing “Sincerely, Oscar” now.
That is a pretty humbling feeling!
You created and produced the show yourself – what is it about this particular
show that made you want to bring it to life in the way that you have?
DT: It’s weird… I was busy working on my
mainstream Adult Contemporary music career writing, producing and performing my
own music and this opportunity came out of nowhere at a music video premiere
that I was hosting. I was lucky enough to meet the grandson of Oscar
Hammerstein and his lovely family at this event and we instantly hit it off. I
felt a strong calling to use my talents to bring recognition to Oscar and help
honor this iconic Broadway legend. I created the previous iteration of the show
and debuted it in Philadelphia and we did so well that I wanted to bring it to
the heart of Broadway. I worked for over a year and a half developing
“Sincerely, Oscar” and am so proud at the finished product. It is truly like my
child and I feel as though I have nurtured and loved it every step of the way.
Did you have any prior creative/production experience prior to this or was this
project something you felt so passionately about you just had to give it a
first time try?
DT: I always have had a hand in producing
my solo mainstream concerts that we have toured around the US, and even some of
my music videos, but this is the first time I have written and produced
something of this colossal size and importance on the theatrical stage. I feel
so lucky that I have been given such a great opportunity right out of the gate!
Can you talk me through the creative process for the show? Where did your first
ideas come from and how did you expand them over time to the point you realised
you could make your thoughts and ideas a reality?
DT: I think the most incredible achievement
in the creative process of this show was the way we created the role of “Oscar
Hammerstein” himself. Early on, I got it stuck in my mind that I wanted to do
something unique and totally “out of the box” for his character. I had just
visited Las Vegas and caught a Michael Jackson tribute show at Mandalay Bay
where they had created Michael as a hologram and he interacted with the other
performers. It blew me away and never quite left me. I wanted to be the very
first to bring this technology to the NY stage and I never really let go of
that idea – even when others said I was crazy! And now, here we are, being the
very first production ON or OFF Broadway that has used this 3d holographic
technology in a theatrical production. It is really quite stunning and
impressive and I am so honored to be the one to pave the way for this new
technology. Sure, there has been some blow back from purist critics who don’t
believe in bringing this kind of technology to the theatrical stage- but I have
news from them—like it or not, it’s coming and “Sincerely, Oscar” is living
proof of it. You can’t stop progress.
Were there ever any days or times that you questioned or doubted what you were
doing, or were you 100% committed to?
DT: Every. Single. Day. It would be weird
if I didn’t occasionally doubt my creative choices- especially when you have to
deal with ridiculous opinions from people who are afraid of the technology or
of the advancement. But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t have changed anything
and I am so proud at what has been created. I sometimes sit back while I am
performing in the show and absorb the incredible audience response and feel a
huge sense of pride that I am here and I am able to live out this incredible
TITL: How did you bring the production’s cast/crew together? Were/are they friends of yours or did you put out a casting call? When did you know you’d found the right people for each part of the show?
DT: A little of column A, a little of column
B. In the case of my gifted director, Dugg McDonough, we had worked together
years ago in several productions at Temple University as well as Des Moines
Metro Opera Company. I immediately thought of him when I was creating this show
and asked him to return to collaborate on this project. As for the rest of the
cast and crew, most were hired from referrals and casting. One of the hardest
parts of creating any new production is finding the right people to work on it.
I can honestly say that in all my years of performing professionally, I have
never worked on a show where I truly like and respect every person that is
there. This is the first time I can say that. We have become like a family and
we all look out and protect each other. It is a really wonderful thing.
TITL: What can you recall of the infamous opening night? Were you nervous or just buzzing and raring to go?
DT: It went by SO fast! I can say that I am
a little nervous before every show I do. That never really goes away and I am
actually glad that those butterflies are there. I never get complacent or
“phone in” a performance. Every show is like opening night to me. The party was
a blast and we really had one amazing night celebrating this great success
TITL: Given that Broadway is typically considered to be more of a man’s world, how proud does it make you feel to know you’re proving yourself to be just as good as your male counterparts when it comes to putting on a successful production?
DT: To be honest, I still feel there is a
lack of support and respect for women creators/producers in this industry.
While it is admittedly a lot better, there is still a great deal of work that
needs to be done. I am really honored to be a strong woman voice out there
creating good, commercial theater in an otherwise male dominated industry. It
is so sad that in this #metoo era we don’t embrace more female voices
attempting to create on the theatrical stage but I think there are more of us
out there that will brave the storm and keep pushing the boundaries, regardless
if we are always embraced or not while we do it! However, that being said-
women need to start supporting women colleagues in theater more. Sad to say
that some of the harshest critical voices out there are from other women. That
has always baffled me. Trying to blow out the candle of another does not make
theirs burn any brighter.
TITL: What advice would you give to anyone out there who has an idea that they’d love to see brought to life on a stage such as one on or off Broadway? What traits might you say they need in order to keep pursuing that idea/dream until it becomes reality?
DT: I would say that dreams can come true and
I am living proof of that. However, set your sights with reasonable goals.
Start small. Test the waters. People don’t usually wake up one morning and
decide to have a show open on Broadway next week. It takes a long time of work,
dedication, financial support and most of all- thick skin, to navigate this
industry. There will be enormous sacrifices that will need to be made and there
will be a lot more tears than laughs at times. But after all that is said and
done, there is no greater joy than to see your creation brought to life by
fabulously talented people each and every day and I truly feel blessed to have
TITL: Finally then, now that Sincerely, Oscar is proving to be a hit, have you thought about any other productions you might like to work on, or is all your time and energy focused on this for the time being?
DT: Right now I am focusing on this limited
engagement run at Theatre Row in NYC, but I would be lying if I said I am not
looking to the future for what is next. I believe we have even bigger and
better things in store for “Sincerely, Oscar” coming in the near future. Maybe
it will be a national tour, maybe an international tour, or maybe a residency
in Vegas? There has been a lot of buzz as to where this should go next… and
right now the sky is the limit! I am just excited to see where this remarkable
journey will go!
For more information on Sincerely, Oscar visit the official website. You can also keep up to
date with Doreen via doreentaylormusic.com,
or by following her on Twitter and
liking her page on Facebook.
Her latest album Happily Ever After
now. Header photo credit: James Jackson.