Mishael Morgan: Trinidad-born, Emmy-winning history maker

Trinidad-born Mishael Morgan made history in June as the first woman of colour to win the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. A few weeks after her historic win, Caroline Taylor caught up with her for a wide-ranging chat about her career, living a purpose-driven life — and what’s next for her

Caroline Taylor: Thank you so much for making me time because I know you guys are on hiatus.

Mishael Morgan: No problem. I’m planning a trip. We’re going back to Toronto. We’re just gonna go see family. So we’re gonna do a little bit of travelling ‘cause I have some time off. So it’s crazy. We’re flying out on Friday. So my house is a disaster and I’m squeezing in all these interviews, but I think they’re very important.

CT: I’ve never watched the Daytime Emmys before, but I watched it and your speech had me in tears. It was really beautiful. And the first thing I wanted to ask, because I saw a picture of your Emmy dress before I even actually tuned in to the telecast. Were the colours an intentional nod to your Trini roots or just like a happy coincidence?

MM: It was a happy coincidence. It’s funny because I had this vision of wearing red. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if I put it in my mind to manifest it or something. When something big’s gonna happen in your life, I sense it. I felt like I had a dream of me standing on the stage getting my Emmy and I was wearing red. And, in some capacity, I wanted to wear red. But I started veering away from it ‘cause it just wasn’t working out. So I had a green dress that I was gonna be shipped to me and a blue dress. And then I got this other dress that was black with all these different colours on it. I ended up wearing that for the after party. But I was possibly thinking about wearing that to the Emmy’s cause it was just coming down to crunch time and I had some dresses coming from a really great designer overseas in Dubai. But then in the end it didn’t work out. And then last minute I was freaking out and I called a good friend of mine who knows a lot of these designers and I’m like, my dress — they just sent it in from Dubai and the measurements don’t fit. It’s all baggy and loose in my stomach area. It’s super tight on my arms. I’m gonna be so uncomfortable. I can’t wear this dress. I don’t know what to do. And the Emmys are tomorrow. And she’s like, okay, gimme a second. I’m gonna call this amazing designer who actually is in Beverly Hills. I’m gonna see if he can see you today. It was nine o’clock in the morning. I called her freaking out and they said, okay, can she make it in by two? And I said, yes, come hell or high water, I’m making it in by two. So I walked in and as soon as I walked in, he was just like, okay, what are you thinking? I originally, I was envisioning red, but at this point whatever fits and whatever looks great. And he’s like, I have an idea and he pulled out the dress and he said, this is the dress. And I was like, I think it is the dress. So when we went up to try the dresses, the PR guys were like, why don’t you try the yellow one first or try the blue one first. And he and Oliver was like, nope, she’s trying this one first. He’s like, I have a good feeling about this. This is the dress. So I put it on and I was almost in tears and it was like I found my wedding dress. It was so bizarre. I was like trying to control myself, it felt so perfect. And it was funny. I didn’t even think about Trinidad when I got the dress, I would’ve got some white, but I guess my white is in my teeth. But when I saw the dress, I thought it was such an homage. I thought it was perfect because of the roses. It’s like old school Young & the Restless, something about it felt vintage, but also felt edgy. Modern day, Hollywood meets classic Hollywood. And that was the vision I had in my mind. That’s why I went old school Hollywood with my hair and my makeup. I just wanted to bring it back to old Hollywood and be like, this is how it always should have been. It never should have mattered where you came from or the colours of your skin, what your background or your ethnicity is.

Mishael Morgan and Bryton James on the Young & the Restless

Mishael Morgan and Bryton James in The Young & the Restless. Photo: Howard Wise/jpistudios.com, courtesy CBS

CT: It was absolute stunning, and I think achieved everything that you thought about and didn’t even think about at the same time, you know?

MM: It really did. Thank you.

CT: The minute I saw the colours, I was like, is that intentional? Because every interview I’ve listened to or read of yours, you always represent your roots and where you come from. What does that mean for you to always acknowledge that and pay tribute to that?

Mishael with her husband, son, and daughter. Courtesy Mishael Morgan

Mishael with her husband, son, and daughter. Courtesy Mishael Morgan

MM: It’s so weird that when you ask me that question, it just brought me to tears. It’s so, so funny. I just think that I have so much pride in both countries that have like contributed to my life. Because Trinidad and Canada have this this one thing that I think is truly connected to my soul, and possibly my soul purpose. It’s the diversity and the multiculturalism that seem so seamless in both countries. We can’t say that racism doesn’t exist, but there’s a playfulness about our differences that we embrace in both Trinidad and in Canada that I find so beautiful and so authentic. And I think it brings us together as people in our food, in our music. And I just feel like that’s what we should all be kind of trying to move towards, you know? It’s not to say that we don’t recognise our differences, but we don’t block. At least in Canada and Trinidad, I see a real dedication to trying to overcome our differences and embrace each other more and more, and celebrate each other’s differences and celebrate each other’s cultures and create our own new culture in a weird way. It’s like just looking at the food in Trinidad is inspiring to what a country that says they’re multicultural or embraces other cultures should be like. Our food is just — it’s like the rainbow, you know? And, and I really discovered that when I moved to Canada. Because when I moved to Canada, I started meeting people from all over the world and I was like, oh, this reminds me of doubles. Oh, this, oh, you guys have roti too. Oh, your flatbread is really similar to buss-up-shut. I remember when I ate Thai food for the first time, I’m like there’s something about the flavours with the tambrin and the sweet and the sour and the spicy, like that is like Caribbean or it’s Trinidadian. Trinidad just has a way, especially in the food, of just connecting cultures. And I feel like that’s just part of my purpose and who I am. And because of that moment of me standing on that stage and having that opportunity to say that speech…and I really didn’t rehearse it. I kind of, I wanted it to flow from my inner being and I wanted it to flow from God. And it’s just like I was designed for that moment because of where I came from.

CT: That’s beautiful. And even your own cause your husband comes from an immigrant family as well.

MM: Yeah. So you’re gonna laugh at this one. Because every Trinidadian, they always have something to say about Guyanese people, but we always end up with a Guyanese person somehow. So my husband’s half Guyanese, half Pakistani, but his parents separated when he was young. So he pretty much grew up fully Guyanese. When I first met him, he told me he was Guyanese and it wasn’t until like a couple months later he was like, when my dad was in Pakistan… I was like, why was your dad in Pakistan? He’s like, he’s Pakistani. I’m like, you told me you were Guyanese. And he’s like, my mum’s Guyanese. I grew up Guyanese, but my dad’s Pakistani. I’m like, so you’re half Pakistani. So my kids are just a new age mishmash that you could only get in Canada now.

CT: Do they have a sense of their roots on both sides?

MMA: A little bit. It’s funny because we’re just all so proud. Like everybody knows it. Everybody in the Caribbean is. If you’re from Trinidad, you’ve got a flag on your car, a flag in your windshields, you’ve got it on your Instagram account. You have it everywhere. My son already knows that he’s Trinidadian and he doesn’t even really talk about Guyanese yet, but he knows. He’s like,  Trinidad’s where mom’s from. He really, really knows it. So my son, who’s six, is just starting to develop that Trini pride, I guess. So we brainwash them a very young age.

CT: That’s fantastic. When you were growing up, how did they keep the Trini culture? Like, was it like food, music, particular kinds of outlooks that you think of?

MM: I think it was everything. I think it was it was the food 100%. Our house, my parents only cooked Trinidadian food. I think when we got a little bit older, my dad started experimenting a little bit and he got really good with cooking lasagne and other things like that. But in our house growing up, until we were at least about 13, 14, it was pretty much just all roti and bake-and-shark and, and curry, and stew chicken, and rice and peas. My mum also used to make provision and dumplings…and caraille! Oh my gosh, my mom with the caraille! I was the only one who could eat it too. My parents always were playing calypso music and soca music in the house, and then we would go down to Caribana, which is the carnival in Toronto. That’s actually pretty big. I think it’s one of the biggest ones outside of Trinidad. I don’t think they could avoid it — keeping the culture alive. And still, my dad always pushed us to really understand other people’s cultures. Because we went to school with a lot of Italians, a lot of Portuguese, and he was always like, you have to respect your friends’ cultures. And like, you gotta learn to speak the language. And meanwhile, my dad is the strongest Trini accent that I never noticed until my friends would come over and say, what did your dad say? I’m like, you don’t understand? How? He’s speaking English. But he had his own outlook on how we are supposed to kind of connect, but I think no matter what you can’t get away from your roots. So they always kept it alive like that. And I mean, moving to Canada, I think made it really easy because we met a lot of Trini friends and our cousins and my parents — pretty much all of their friends in Canada were Trinidadian. So it’s, it’s an, it’s an easy transition, I think.

CT: After you moved to Canada, did you come back fairly often?

MM: Not for the first few years, for financial reasons. And then I became back for the first time. So we left when I was five. And we came back for the first time when I was 14, I believe. I was 13 or 14. And then after that we came back again when I was 19, that’s when I broke my neck down in Barrackpore Road. After that, quite often until I was about 27 — I came back every year to two years. One time I came down with my mum, then I came down with my girlfriend, and then I came down with just with my family again — my dad and my mum. And then after I got on the show [The Young & the Restless], it was really difficult to get away and I was spending so much time trying to get back to Canada because me and my husband did long distance for two years. So every month I would fly to Toronto, and then once a month he would fly to LA. So we would see each other every two weeks. So it was like financially and physically exhausting. So I didn’t have any time to travel. And then I had my babies and I kept saying I needed to go because my, my grandmother was 96 and I’m so sad that she passed without meeting her great grandkids. I think it was just because of COVID, because my daughter was just born and I was like, okay, well you have to go see my grandma. Now we have to go see Granny “Shooney”. And yeah, I was really unfortunate that she didn’t get to meet them, but she got to meet a lot of great grandkids. I think she had 16. Great, great grandkids. My grandmother had a lot of children.

Mishael Morgan and Bryton James

Bryton James and Mishael Morgan of
The Young & the Restless”. Photo: Howard Wise/jpistudios.com, courtesy CBS

CT: Are you still are fairly close with your family here?

MM: So my mum is one of 18 kids. My grandmother had 18 children, all with the same husband. So it’s a lot of family. For the most part we’re close, but it’s very difficult to be really close with a family that big. So I am close with like a few of my cousins that live in Trinidad. We have like a WhatsApp group and we chat just like us who are all around the same age. I think that that was one of the feelings that I felt when I went back to Trinidad for the first time when I was 14.

It was reinforced by the connection with my family. We landed in Trinidad and we hadn’t been there in so long and we stepped off the plane and I just felt like this overwhelming feeling of like, I’m home — so strange. And my family, it was like we never left and I didn’t even remember some of my older cousins, but they remember you, you know? So it was really like, we never left. We just picked up where we left off. And we were like partying with my cousins on the beach. And they talked to me like they knew me, even though I didn’t I hadn’t talked to them in years.

I thought it was so beautiful because when I was 19, a lot of my family came down from all over the world for my grandmother’s 80th birthday. So we just like all met back up and so much like family that I hadn’t seen in years hadn’t talked to in years. And you would never be able to guess just how we laugh and interact with each other. And I think that’s the beautiful thing about family. It’s like, you feel your connection you don’t need to talk all the time. You just always know that those people have your back, which is awesome. And I think it’s also a tricky thing too. Very personal.

CT: I’ve always been very moved by the kind of balance and purpose that you seem to kind of bring to what you do. Even when you’re posting beautiful pictures of your family, or hiking places that you never identify — it feels like you have a really kind of balanced connection with your family and with your spirituality and with the natural world. And it feels like it’s all part of how you stay grounded and focused. You talk about purpose a lot, and learning about your story, it seems like a lot of things just kind of came into alignment at certain times at key moments. I can’t not ask you about the fateful car accident, which kind of changed your direction. You were studying Poli Sci at York?

MM: Yeah. Political science, law and society at York University. And that, yeah. And at that same time I think I was in my second year. And that’s when I went down. In Canada, you can apply for law school after your second year of undergrad. Then I ended up deferring it and I just stayed and finished more of my young undergrad for my third year. You’re only allowed to defer once. So then when the deferral came up, by that time, I had been acting for about a year…about 10 months. So then at that time I just I booked my classes. I leased my apartment with one of my best friends. And we were gonna go to law school. When I broke my neck, I came back to Canada.

So when the accident happened in Trinidad, that was, that was a shift for me spiritually. My whole life was dedicated to becoming an attorney and I saw the purpose in it. My dad had always yelled at me growing up because my sister would be in trouble and I would pipe up and be like, well, dad, I don’t think that that’s fair because you said this and this and this. He would look at me and be like, you’re not even in trouble; why are you talking right now? So I always had this thing in me where I always wanted to stand up for people who couldn’t stand up for themselves. And it was always this running joke in my house that I was gonna be an attorney. And I put all of my energy in that direction. School was always pretty easy for me. I was always a really dedicated student. And up to grade 11, grade 12, I was pretty active in my faith.

But things were not working out. It felt like I was constantly pushing against all these small, ridiculous problems… I prayed about a test and I felt like I felt like it didn’t come through. It would always feel like this uphill battle where I need to maintain like this perfect academic record so that I can get into university and get into York for Poli Sci so I can get into law school. And it always felt like something was pushing against me and this weird way. I just said, God, I’m done with you. I pray and you don’t give me the things that I want and I don’t care what people say.  I don’t even know if you’re up there anymore. And I kind of had this like silly breakup with God.

I was a really weirdly spiritual child. I will always say that I stand up for bullying if I ever get to kind of talk to teenagers or people about it. I would love the opportunity because I think I have a unique perspective on it, because I do think it’s shaped the person that I am. For about two and a half, almost three years, when we first moved to Canada, I didn’t really have any friends — from grade one to almost when I was going into grade three. In class, kids would talk to me, but then when we’d go in the playground, I felt like they kind of bullied me… I wouldn’t say that I got bullied. I felt like my older sister got bullied a little bit more. I would walk away and just not engage. So I kind of became a bit of a loner and I just was very content with just sitting in the schoolyard. And I remember having really long conversations with God about people that I saw and about life. And so I always felt like I had this really close connection with God that developed at a really young age. And that’s why this breakup with God, which lasted about two or three years, was very, was significant in my life too. It was a strong memory. And the accident was like me coming back home.

I was just lying there and I had five days while they were trying to figure out the surgery and I had nothing else to do. I had no choice but to pray and I had a lot more conversations with God, and I remember just being content with everything that I did in my life. And I’m like even if I, even if I get paralysed from the neck down, I’ve always been a dedicated person. I can push against it. I can possibly, maybe even be a lawyer. I don’t know. I was still thinking about it and then I just remembered hearing… It was, like, a voice, two inches out of my ear and it just, and he — it sounded like a man — but it was like, but you never tried.

And I knew what they were talking about because all along the way that I was having all of this pushback with my academics… I always had like eighties and nineties in every single class that I did, but for me that was pushback. I wanted the 95, I got the 90. So it was pushback for me in my teenage years. I felt like it just wasn’t aligning. And I think that’s the feeling that I felt now that I’m older and a little more connected to my spirituality. It just didn’t feel aligned. It felt like I was trying to do something that was going against my direction in this weird way. And I felt like God was kind of telling me was that I never tried when I had all of these opportunities.

The one thing that doesn’t even make sense when I look back… When I went to that one elementary school, luckily we moved around a lot. So by the time I was in grade eight, I was a nerd a little bit. I was in between nerd, not super nerdy, but not popular, just like in the middle — like, you don’t see me. You don’t notice me. I’m not making waves, but I have my friends and my little crew and I remembered when we did the yearbook, they all had “most likely to be a lawyer”, “most likely to be a doctor”, and “most likely to be a movie star”. And they said, Mishael Morgan. And it’s so funny, but my instinct was, are they bullying me? Why would they say that?

I always loved acting. And every time there was a school play, I was always in it. I would have tiny parts and parents would come up to me and be like, you did such a good job in that play. People always made me feel like they’d noticed me when I was on stage. And then I remembered a teacher came up to me and asked me if I was gonna apply to go to the arts high school. And I said, oh no, no, no, my sister’s in St. Paul’s. I’m gonna be a lawyer. So I’m not gonna go to an arts high school. That’s not really for me. Then I remembered feeling really weird that one of my girlfriends who I didn’t think was dramatically inclined at all got into the arts high school for drama. And I was like, maybe I should have tried. But I think it was like a fear — I don’t think I would get in. And I don’t think that my parents would go for that. So I didn’t try then.

And then I remember when we were in high school, like all these plays and all these different opportunities, some of them, I took some of them. If it didn’t work out, I just kind of let it go. My teacher in high school, my drama teacher, who was also my English teacher, was mad at me that I wasn’t gonna be going to university for drama. And she was like, you can double major in drama. I was like, I looked into it and I don’t think you can anymore because, and I don’t really want that on my plate. I wanna focus on my academics and she was really upset. I just remember the way she was stormed off and was really short with me. That’s all the stuff that came to my head, where I was just like, okay, I don’t understand, but okay. If you give me this opportunity to walk again, I guess I’ll try. Like, and that was kind of the end of the conversation. And I just like trusted that. And I lived in that place before I had the surgery done.

When I came back to Canada, I kind of got scammed for a bit, looking into newspapers, but then I said another prayer, six months after that. And it just said, God, if you want me to try and do this I need somebody to guide me and help me. I don’t know where to start. This is a foreign concept for me. I bartended my whole way through university just to kind of pay my way and stuff. Good easy money. So I bartended at this nightclub and my agent randomly came up to me and said, I just left like a really big agency. And I’m breaking off on my own. I have a really tiny agency, but I swear I’m a legit agent. And I really think you’d be great for commercials. I really want you to consider letting me rep you. And he gave me his card and he was like, I know I don’t look like an agent right now. I’m not in a suit. I’m such a mess. This is actually one of my clients’ wrap parties. And I really want you to sign up.

And I was like, okay. So I kind of looked at the card and I was just like, wow, God, if this is you, this is pretty fast. ‘Cause I felt like I said that prayer and that just aligned right away. And I started my first audition with him. I basically sat down and he was just like, yeah, I take 15%. I just was like, what are you trying to get from me? Are you trying to scam me? Like what money do you want from me for headshot and all of this stuff? And he was like, no, I don’t want anything. You’re gonna do commercials. So I don’t even need anything. All you need to do is just tell me that I can take 15%. So I was like, okay. Then let’s do it. So we started like that. And then I booked the first thing that I ever auditioned for, which was a Trey Songz music video, which was random…which I ended up getting cut out of, by the way. So that was my first job.

And then I think seven months in, I was auditioning all the time for commercials, but then I told my agent, I really wanna act in film and TV. And he was like, I don’t know, you don’t have any experience. I’m breaking out on my own. I have to kind of like build a name for myself. So I can’t really like have you going in, if you don’t really know what you’re doing, you know? And I was like, well, I really wanna try whatever. So he was like, okay, well, come in audition for me. If you can audition for me I’ll see if I can maybe send you in on like one or two things or something. So I went in and I auditioned for him. And then he asked me to do it a bunch of different ways. And he just like sat back and he was like, yeah, I think I can send you out on a few things.

So then I booked just a guest star spot, like seven months later. And then 10 months into it, I booked a series regular role. And my agent was like this is unheard of — people audition for like 10 years to get their first year’s regular role. And all this time, all this time, I was still doing my undergrad at York. And then I deferred my law school for a year. But I was still doing my undergrad. So I finished that series regular role on Family Biz. And then literally when I was still on the set, I got a call saying that I booked a second series, regular role. And my agent was just like, this is insane. He’s like, I’ve never seen this before. So I said a prayer. I was just like, God I don’t know how to give up everything that I’ve worked towards, because if I go to law school law, school’s four hours away. Cause I was gonna go to Ottawa U and I wanted to focus on international human rights law. They have a really good programme for that. And I was like, if I’m gonna go to Ottawa, I can’t keep acting in Toronto. It’s just not gonna work. So I just said a prayer and I just said what, if you want me to kind of take this leap of faith and go full throttle into acting, then I literally need to hear it very clearly that I am not going to law school. I need to hear those words — or see them — so that I take the leap of faith. And two weeks before I was gonna go to law school, after I booked everything, nothing came up. I saw no signs, nothing.

And then my agent called me and for some reason there was no caller ID, but I answered the phone. I’m like, hello? And he is like, you’re not going to law school. It didn’t even sound like my agent. It was really weird. I think he was on speaker phone. He’s like, hey Mishael, rockstar. You’re not gonna law school. We got an amazing deal. This will pay for your law school education. I want my cut. Law school always be there. Let’s put that on the back burner — like trust me, let’s take the leap of faith. And I was like okay. Somehow God is working through you. So yeah, two weeks before, I sent my letter in, I told them that I wasn’t gonna come. So I declined my offer to law school…where I was just like, what am I doing? I’m probably gonna have to like, do my LSAT again, do everything again. This is crazy. I called my girlfriend who we leased our apartment together and I’m like, I am so sorry, but I can’t come. I’m gonna help you find like a new roommate or something. She thought I lost my mind. And then like I went and I told my parents and they thought I lost my mind. But the funny thing was, although they thought I lost my mind, there wasn’t really much pushback except for like, are you sure about this? This is kind of crazy. And I’m like, yeah, I’m gonna go for it.

And the reason why I talk about purpose a lot is because after I did that — after I trusted God and took this huge leap of faith, I almost went into very deep, dark depression for about a year and a half. Both my shows got cancelled and I did not book another project for a year and a half. I just was sitting there like what the actual hell for lack of a better term is going on. Like, I feel like you told me to do this, God. I feel I am almost a hundred percent sure that you told me to do this and I am in a place where I’ve come back home to you. I am gonna keep trusting you, but I do not understand what is going on here. It was a really, really dark time for me. I went through a lot growing up with bullying and all this stuff, but I’ve always had this weirdly optimistic outlook on life. I’ve never felt like a bitter person or an angry person or somebody who has a short fuse. I would never describe myself like that, except for that year and a half. I even apologised to my husband ‚ who is my husband now, back then we were just dating — for being such a. Like B I T C H for that, for that year and a half. I would go to the store and something would happen. Or some woman says something to me and it would really get under my skin and it didn’t feel like me, something felt really off. And I remembered, I had this other audition. There was a Starbucks and a bookstore. So I was drinking my coffee from the Starbucks. And I went into the bookstore and I just remember feeling so heavy. I don’t even remember what happened that day, but I just felt so heavy. And I was feeling heavy a lot, but I just felt like I just wanna go home and go to sleep or something. I’m walking through the bookstore and I saw this book and its aid, why are you so angry? I still don’t know who the author is of the book, but I just was like, why am I so angry?  So I walked into that section.

I picked up the book, not knowing that I was in the self-help section. I started perusing and I picked up this book called A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. And it literally had a line in it where it’s like, if this is connecting to you, then this book is for you. And I took it home and it completely transformed my life. I got rid of the resentment I had for things not working out the way that I wanted them to. And it put me in this place of alignment and flow. And then it made me really start to re-evaluate why I wanted to be an actor. For a long time, I think I thought I wanted to be an actor because I wanted to like help my parents. I would have an affluent career. I wouldn’t have to worry about money or anything like that. And I thought that’s what it was in my early twenties. But I’ve never been a showy person. I love acting for how it makes me feel and how free I am on stage since I was a kid, because I was a nerd. It was so terrifying for me to get up on stage. But as soon as I was on stage, it was like I was alive and I didn’t care anymore.

And that’s what I loved about acting. So it’s definitely not really about the money, you know? What is it about? And then I started thinking, why did I wanna be a lawyer. I wanted to be a lawyer because I wanted to change the world. I literally said it to myself laughing. As embarrassing as that is to say, I wanted to change the world. I wanted to fight for women’s rights and fight for fight for rights of people all around the world. I remember in university feeling so taken back by the apartheid in South Africa when I learned about them and genocides in Rwanda. The world needs help. How are we looking at each other and doing this to each other? And I wanted to be in that fight. That’s why I wanted to be a lawyer. And then I just sat there and I was like, so then why do you wanna be an actor? And I sat there for a while. And I was like, because storytellers change the world. It just hit me. I can spend 10 years lobbying for something, or I can put together a two-hour movie and change somebody’s heart, change somebody from their inside out, help them see the world differently and help them feel the world differently just through pictures and the artform of drama. That’s why I wanna be an actor. And then literally, as soon as I discovered that, I think it was probably two weeks later, I started booking like crazy. I just started booking and booking and booking and booking, and it was insane.

I just like went on a ride after that. Everything aligned. God was like, you got it. Now you get to go. You need to be in the shit so that you can figure out why you’re doing this. And that’s where he put me. And that’s the reason why I’m so big about purpose and alignment and just knowing what you’re doing, because we have one life to live. And we all have a piece of this puzzle to play with and you get to choose what piece it’s gonna be, but no matter what, God’s gonna work through you. So you either become a purpose-driven person and piece is gonna be bigger and more enjoyable, or you become a different tool that God’s gonna use in a different way, but he’s gonna work through you. That’s kind of the way that I look at life. So either align yourself with God so that this journey can be fun and fulfilling, or align it with purpose, or just give it up to the world and see what happens. And I think, I think people kind of get in their own way and get stuck or block themselves when they’re doing things for the wrong reason.

Cause sometimes they’re doing the right thing, but for the wrong reason. And as soon as that shifted, then everything else did too. God gave me exactly what I wanted because I wanted signs to tell me that this is something I should do. So I booked and booked and booked and he was like, this is something you should do, ‘cause you’re not gonna stop working. And then as soon as I committed, he was like, well, but wait a second. Now you need to figure out why you wanna do it.

CT: That hearts and minds thing that you talked about… there’s another Trini I know who was watching the Daytime Emmys with her kids. And when, during your speech, she got so emotional because she was able to point to her daughter and to her son and say, look she’s from Trinidad too. She’s from where you’re from. They don’t watch the show, but they were so moved and so impacted by what they were seeing on stage. And I’m very curious to see how that continues to sort sprout in them and kids like them in years to come because those moments can be so impactful in a kind of long-term way.

MM: My dad would not stop talking about the most beautiful woman that came from Trinidad, how she changed the world…Penny Commission, who was the first Black woman to win Miss Universe — came from Trinidad on and on and on and on. And 45 years later I broke a glass ceiling myself. So I think that those moments do have very lasting impact, you know? It’s easier to see it and compare it in the work of Hollywood and drama and in these pageants and in these ways you get to see it on a slightly bigger scale. But I think it’s happening in all different industries. I think that that’s what’s beautiful — celebrating all of the glass ceilings that we’re breaking right now as women, as women of colour, as women of all different ethnicities. And that’s the one thing that I didn’t get to say.

Leading up to the Emmys, I was like, I should just at least say out loud what I think I wanna say on that stage. So then I know I can at least stand up there with the confidence that I will have something to say. So in my car, two or three times going home, I just kind of started talking as if I won. And I would say two out of the three or four times I did it, I brought myself to tears and I knew it was connected I was just gonna let it flow. But it never, ever sounded the same. And it was never exactly what I said in that speech. But the one thing that I did say one time that I wish made it into the speech was that I am lucky enough to be from Trinidad because I am filled with all these different cultures.

My grandmother was half Chinese, half Venezuelan. My grandfather was French Creole and French. My dad’s side was Indian and Black. I have all of these cultures in my blood, bleeding through me and I want everybody to feel represented now, ‘cause it’s not just a Black thing. It’s that we all want to see ourselves in someone else doing something. And I wanted to be a part of that and represent that, that I’m not just a Black woman or I’m not just African-American. I am a multiracial woman and I’m breaking this glass ceiling, which means that a Chinese girl can come after me. It means that an Indian girl can come after me. I celebrate being the first Black woman. It’s not just about the colour of my skin. I think that that’s what separates people. I think it’s about respecting each other’s cultures. And I think that that’s what Trinidad and Canada’s taught me that unifies us…

I remember one of the girls that I met out here who’s Chinese. And she did Chinese pageants and we hit it off and I went and she was like, we have this group of other Chinese women that are connected and we help each other and bring each other up. And we have these meetings like once a month, and she’s like, you should come. And I was like, I feel weird. Why should I come? She’s like, well, because you have Chinese in you. And like, that’s how it is. People want to find connection with each other, but sometimes they just don’t know where to start. And it, sometimes it starts as simple as food or where you came from or where your grandmother came from. But we are all connected and we are actually living in a world where we’re more connected than ever before. Most people on this planet are not just one thing. You know? They’re all interracial, even if it’s even if it’s Caucasian races, you know? And I think that that’s one thing that I wish I kind of touched on in my speech. What I touched on I think was so right for the moment, which unity and reminding everybody that we are making these changes together.

And I think that that was something that I am proud of, because I think a lot of times what happens, it’s a speech where some people feel included in it and then other people feel alienated. And I think that’s why I’m really proud that I said that I’m proud of our generation, ‘cause it’s not just a white thing or a Black thing. It’s really like us as, at this time, everybody who’s around this age is saying that in our lifetime, we wanna see this change and we’re gonna actively take steps towards it. And it’s taken really hard moments. It’s taken a man to be brutally killed in broad daylight, but it woke up the entire world. And I see us saying that this isn’t going away — we’re going to continue to keep taking steps forward and I feel so blessed to be a part of that.

CT: I think inclusion and equity and equality was the big takeaway from your speech. And that’s actually a perfect segue to one of my other questions you. Because you started to produce and write and direct. And I was looking at “I have a dream” project. What inspired that?

MM: One of my biggest regrets was that I didn’t just go to the George Floyd protests, ‘cause I’m such a God-fearing person. I know God would’ve taken care of me. I had so many of my friends go. But I just felt with COVID and my two kids and my daughter was still so young — and nobody knew what COVID was gonna do to baby still. So I felt so scared to go for my family, but I had this bubbling inside of me that I want to do something more than just post other people’s impactful things. And it just hit me, like what I told you where I’m a storyteller. Let’s tell a story. And something hit me that night…I was so, so disgusted by how the media was skewing. I think I watched Fox News and I watched CNN and like how they were skewing the riots. But meanwhile, I was talking to some of my friends who were white and some of my friends who were Black and some of my friends who were Indian and Asian and they were all talking about going to these protests and seeing everybody. And I was seeing the pictures and you saw every different colour of person around the rainbow and it was happening internationally. You had people in China protesting at the same time. You know what I mean? Like this wasn’t just a Black and white thing. It was a fight for universal equality and I just remembered a line in the Martin Luther King speech where he said, one day we’re gonna stand up for justice together.

I don’t know why, but it just like hit me. And I Googled the Martin Luther King speech and I was like, this is weirdly disturbing that it’s still relevant today, but also beautiful because what his dream was is actually happening. And I don’t think people are seeing that his prophecy is actually coming true. He dreamed that we would stand up for it together. And that’s what we’re doing now. It’s not just Black people and white people, it’s everybody. And that’s when I was just like, I wanna do a video — something to remind people of this moment and maybe somehow have a bigger impact on this moment. Or at least, let people think about it differently and not allow the media and what’s going on to separate people and make white people feel alienated because this is a time where we can come together and make lasting changes that will help future generations for years to come. I wanted to be an active part of that. So I started thinking about redoing his speech and then I was just like, could I do it? I was like, well, no, that’ll be weird. Like just one person. And then I started thinking, well, what if I let like a white person do the speech?

And I was like, that’s not gonna go over well. And then I thought about it. I was like, well, what I’m trying to create is unity. And every single thing that I’m seeing was a bunch of Black people getting together saying that we need change. We need equality now. Or that other video that was taken really badly where it was a bunch of white people saying that, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. And I’m looking at the videos and I’m like, this is literally segregation. You’re literally dividing. Who thought during this fight for equality, just let the Black people have a conversation. Just let the white people have a conversation. Shouldn’t we be doing it together so that we actually reach the road of equality and reach the road of unity? So I was like, we’re gonna have every single ethnicity that I can get who’s an actor who I know has equipment to shoot and I’m gonna get people from all over the world. I went on this hunt and I called my girlfriend and I told her about. And I told her about it in this way that I was like, I don’t know, should I do it? And then she was like not only should you do this, you are going to do this. And I was like, okay. So between me and her we got so many amazing people involved and we had people that were shooting from Hong Kong. One of the girls was from Brazil and because of COVID, she’s not in LA. It literally was people from all over the world saying his speech and paying homage to such an amazing speech that should still have weight, you know?

CT: It was a beautiful project. I saw you were looking to start writing, directing and producing as well. What’s next for you?

MM: I am actually working on a screenplay right now. I have a million different ideas for shows a couple movies, but there’s this story that I’m writing that feels very connected to my purpose, very connected to now. And it’s funny because I felt like it like downloaded into me after the “I have a dream” project. It was a lot harder than I thought. We said we were gonna do this and it flowed…and then I had some hiccups. We had a couple of friends who were white actors that I approached, and I was really excited for them to be in it. And they turned me down in a very nice way, but one said that her team basically told her absolutely not. “This is not your time to talk” — that’s literally what her team told, that this is the time to let Black people have their moment. And I understood and I appreciated what she was saying. And I told her that I was not gonna convince her to do it because I have this thing where I want everybody who’s gonna be in the project to be aligned with the project. So if for some reason you are not feeling that way, or your team is pushing you in a way where you feel conflicted, then I don’t want you to do it.

Because I want every person to have the energy that they’re doing this with no hesitation. But I told her, your team is wrong because this is your fight. Because if you’re okay with your children growing up in a world where they fall in love with a Black person, they’re gonna get treated just as badly. And they can’t worry about being heckled or being bullied on social media or not being allowed in certain places in this country. Or imagine if they did, if they ended up with a Black person and your grandkids, there’s certain places in the south that your grandkids could get lynched. This is your fight too. This is a human fight and I feel sad for everybody who doesn’t see that. And for everybody, who’s trying to separate it because this is your fight too. It’s all of our fight because we want a world where we can all live happily and not worry about these ridiculous things.

We have so many more problems in this world with climate change and food and increasing death rates for all these different diseases that we don’t need to be killing each other anymore. We’re living at a time where we can live so comfortably and happy that why do we even have to waste any energy on hating each other? Something so ridiculous like the way that we look. So a couple of people started dropping out. Magically, some other people would come in, thankfully.

And then — after I got all of the pieces of the puzzle, all of the actors came in and brought me all of their stuff, and I had everything — I gave it to my editor and all of a sudden he had reservations and he felt nervous about doing it. He felt it wasn’t gonna be a good quality product. And this was like two days before the deadline that I created for Juneteenth. And I was like, what is going on? I broke down in tears. I feel like I’m being pulled to do this, but then I’m feeling all of this pushback. I don’t get this, God. What is it that you want me to do? Do you want me not to do this project? And everything inside me was like, no, you’re doing this, but you need to go through the pressure — pressure creates diamonds and you need to go through it. And I looked at my computer and I was like, you know what? I can do this. I do self-tapes. I started editing it and it was like perfection.

I sat there for almost 24 hours. My husband would bring me coffee and I was having moments where I’d feel so like broken by this because I want to bring this out into the world. But it’s just a silly little project, a heart project. And I feel like I’m taking away so much time from the kids. I’ve spent this whole week and a half just dedicating my life to this. I’ve been locked in this room for 24 hours, shooing the kids away. And I feel I’m not gonna be able to do this. My husband and my girlfriend who is producing it with me just talked me through those moments and was like, you’re gonna do this. Don’t give up, keep pushing through. And in the final hour, it all came together and somebody hooked me up with the person at Y&R who does the music and they actually played the song for me. And they gave me the footage to put over like everything just started falling into place, like right at the last moment when I was completely exhausted and going on no sleep. And I finally got it to the finish line and I was so happy with it. I was so exhausted. The night that we released it and we sent it out into the universe, we got nothing but positive feedback. I was so elated. Pretty much it’s overwhelmingly positive how people took the concept and took to the project that we did, that we put together.

But that night after going through that and finally getting it there and I was still running on fumes — really happy, but very exhausted. My husband was like, I’m gonna go to bed. I was like, okay, I’m just gonna stay up for a half an hour…watch a mindless reality show and just Zen out for a second. And then I went into the bathroom and started brushing my teeth and I don’t know how to explain it, but it was like this entire movie that I’m writing got downloaded into me and…it’s a different take on a slave movie really. Cause I’m a person of colour and I have a really hard time watching slave movies. And this movie…I shouldn’t say kind of a hundred percent, like it’s all about love. I felt like God was like, because you did this and you got this project to the finish line, I’m gonna give you the next one. And I just I saw all the characters, I saw their back stories…know what the characters wake up and eat for breakfast. I don’t know how to explain it. It just completely downloaded into me. And it’s another project that I know I’m going to feel super nervous about when it’s about to come out. But I do think it’s another moment of alignment where God really connected me to my purpose.

So I just have to keep leaning into the fact that this is the one gift that he’s given me where I think I see things and I can tell stories from a place that unifies people. I hope that’s part of my purpose — to tell stories and talk to people from a place that makes people feel connected and included and part of this bigger picture…

Mishael Morgan with her on-screen family

Mishael Morgan as Amanda Sinclair, with Leigh-Ann Rose (who plays her sister Imani), and Ptosha Storey (who plays her mother Naya). Photo Howard Wise/jpistudios.com, courtesy CBS

CT: One of the things I was wondering about as well — you talked about your confinement after your retina surgery. That was intense. You said like 10 minutes, every hour you were allowed to get up and you were face on the rest of the time? I had a visceral reaction to that.

MM: Yeah, me too! But then it’s funny when you’re going through it, when you’re in the pressure of something like that, you just do it — you just get it done.

CT: Was that just a matter of, like, I’m just enjoying this and getting to the other side, or were you actually having more kind of like insights and “downloads” in that period?

MM: I always take moments like that God purposely slowing you down for something. So I always look for purpose in those moments, ‘cause I think that and my accident in Trinidad is what opened my eyes up to that in those moments you can either be in misery or you can use them to look for an opportunity to change your life when you when you get through it. If you have that positive mindset and you know that this is just a moment in time, then you’re gonna get through, then you get through it with grace and then you enjoy whatever it is that you learn from that moment, you know?

So I was in that chair trying to figure out why because as funny as it is I won my Emmy for the storyline that I was doing at that time. So I was doing that storyline where I had shot all the scenes with my mum. I had shot the scenes with my grandfather. I was so honoured to be do telling this story and so excited about it. And I was getting such great feedback about some of the scenes that had already come out on the show. And I felt that this was my story to tell; it’s also in this weird way connected to my dad. He was raised by two great aunts. He was kind of farmed out and he didn’t know his mum until he was 21. He knew her when he was younger. I think, I think he was about eight or something. And then he grew up with two great two great aunts in Trinidad and his mum was in St Vincent. So he had this moment of relearning who his mother was and he had this experience of meeting her for the first time that he kind of told me about when we were kids. And my dad had passed away in 2019, so there was something about this story that I felt so connected to. So I wanted to do the best job possible and I wanted to do it justice. And that’s what was really funny. So after I shot all those amazing scenes that I was super excited about, then my retina detaches, and they tell me that I have to go and do surgery.

And I’m in the middle of this big storyline that they gave me. And I feel like the worst actor in the world. I’m like, how am I gonna tell my boss this? So I called him and I’m like, I know I’ve got three episodes to shoot this week, but I don’t even know what to tell you. The doctor says, I need to go and get retina surgery tomorrow, or I can go blind. And they were so amazing. They were just like, no you just gotta go and do it. Don’t worry about it. We’re gonna figure out what to do. And while after I get the surgery, while I’m in the chair, it was kind of ruthless of them, but I think that’s how God works. They contacted me and they said, unfortunately, please don’t take this the wrong way. But we have so many scripts written for this storyline, ‘cause we’re in the middle of it that we have to recast because we don’t have the time to like rewrite all of these scripts. So we have to do a temporary recast. He’s like, your job is waiting for you. You’re not being replaced. We just need to do a temporary recast. And I was just like, oh my gosh, what are you doing to me, God — this is my story. And you’re making me stop in the middle of my story. I don’t understand what is happening.

And it was so funny. I said another prayer and I just said God, I don’t get this. I don’t understand. I feel like I am listening to you. I am taking so many risks. I am so proud of my work. I’ve been so dedicated to the story. I don’t understand. All I ask is that whoever they recast, I don’t know how you’re gonna tell me this, but I just want to know that it’s going to the right person and that right now there’s a higher purpose and a higher reason for this. Just please gimme something so that I just know that this isn’t you leaving me by the wayside like that. I could just see a little bit of your work. Please tell me like that this person deserves this job. And I kid you not — I don’t know if it was that night or the next morning I got a text from Karla Mosley saying like, I just wanna let you know I just got the job as a temporary recast and I’m so super excited to be stepping into your shoes. Let me know if there’s anything that you need or something like that. And I was like, oh my gosh. And I texted back and forth, and then she texted me and she said I just wanna let you know I am so appreciative for this job because I’m actually seven months pregnant. And I had left The Bold & the Beautiful a few months earlier. So I was literally weeks away from my health insurance being cancelled.

Because as an actor, you have to work a certain number of hours. And she was like, I’m about to give birth to this baby. And I don’t have any health insurance, and this is perfect because now I’ll be able to top up my health insurance and maintain it at least through the birth of my child. So you don’t even have any idea how much this is saving me right now. Thank you. And she’s like, I’m so sorry that you’re going through this, but I’m gonna do the best job possible. Like just know that like, I really, really needed this and I was like, all right, God, whatever ride we gotta go on now, I thank you for giving me that. Let’s just get this done. And that’s when I didn’t worry about work anymore. I focused on healing. I started reading Eckhart Tolle’s book Stillness Speaks.  And I just became really still. I meditated for hours, because I was in that chair for hours. So every opportunity I had, I was just meditating and I was quiet and I think something happens when you’re still, and in that energy, I think I was just aligning all of the right things. I don’t know what exactly the purpose was for that time, but in that six weeks, all of the episodes that she did was not necessary to telling my story. So in the end, the last scenes that I did, which was I think with Bryton, when I was talking about how much this is important for me because I want my dad to know that I’m fighting for him; and then the other scene, when I’m on the witness stand making up eyelines, ‘cause there was no-one else in the room. It told the whole story. I was kind of in shock, but I think he gave me a moment to just be, I guess, and I don’t exactly know why, but I think I needed to just be still in that moment — maybe to prepare me for the other scenes that I needed to do so that I would be ready and those were gonna be winners.

CT: That’s amazing. I didn’t know if there was gonna be an answer, but there was, and I love that. For young Caribbean, diaspora artists — whether it’s in the Caribbean or in Toronto or New York — what do you have any advice for them starting out and trying to make their way in the industry?

MM: Let’s bring it all the way back. You have to really know why you’re doing it. As soon as you connect yourself with your purpose as to why you’re being an actor, whatever — ‘cause everybody has their own purpose and their own journey. But until you can articulate that to yourself nothing’s gonna happen because at the end of the day, there is no magic formula to how to be an actor. I think I’m proof to it. Then there’s people that go to school and work their butts off for four or five years to get PhDs in acting and still might not achieve the level of success that they wanted. There’s people that like literally walk off the street with no experience and they become instant overnight successes. They become household names that go on forever and they didn’t have any experience. I think the secret is to just know why you’re doing it so that at least when you get there, when you achieve the level of success that you want, you can appreciate your journey because in life. I feel like other people from the outside see the moments of success and notoriety. But when you live it and you experience it, it’s the journey, that’s the most important thing. It’s the journey that it’s either you enjoyed the journey to get there because those other moments — those moments of successes and even fame are so few and far between that if you didn’t enjoy the journey, then it was all just a waste anyway. So just know why you’re doing it so that you can enjoy the journey.

CT: That’s a great answer. Thanks. As you speak about journeys, next time you journey to Trinidad, are there any sort of experiences that you want to recreate or new ones that you want to have?

MM: One that I need to recreate was when my dad just found this random doubles man on the side of the highway, and it was the best doubles. I’m still like thinking about those doubles. It’s been like 10 years, 15 years. And some bake-and-shark down by Maracas Bay — that needs to be recreated too. And then the new memory that I really wanna create, but I don’t know if it’s ever gonna happen, but I’m gonna put it out there — hopefully God will keep Trinidad dry for me when I come, ‘cause I keep wanting to go during summer vacation with the kids and that’s the rainy season and I wanna see a waterfall so bad. I’ve never seen a waterfall. My cousins have been talking about taking hikes up and going to the waterfall. My cousin has this amazing picture of swimming in this beautiful waterfall and I’ve never, ever seen it. ‘Cause every time I go down, they’re like, no there’s risk of flash flooding. You can’t go now, you have to come during the dry season. Oh! And then also swimming in the Nylon Pool in Tobago. That memory is really stuck in my mind. I heard that it’s a little bit destroyed from tourism, but I remembered swimming in the Nylon Pool and all of these — beautiful different coloured fishes. It’s like snorkelling that I’ve never experienced anywhere else in the world that I’ve ever gone. And I’ve travelled to places and then I’d swim and people would be like, what is it that you love about snorkelling?

I’m like, the beautiful fishes that I’m not seeing. And the water looks murky. This is not the snorkelling that I am used to. Cause my first memory of snorkelling was in Tobago —that’s snorkelling, you know, that’s just a feast for the eyes. When you go down there, it’s just so entertaining. I don’t even know why you would go snorkelling anywhere else. I might be coming down to Trinidad sooner than you think, but you can’t tell anybody because I’m keeping it a secret because my husband actually just told me it’s like part of my birthday present. So I’m gonna be probably going, coming down to Trinidad sooner than a lot of people think. But I’m so excited. So we’ll see.


This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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