Morgan taking his career ups, downs in stride



kevin winter/getty images


Tracy Morgan stars in First Sunday, which opens tomorrow.

It’s about 1:30 a.m. and 30 Rock actor Tracy Morgan is hamming it up in front of a few women holding court before the manic comedian in the lobby bar of the posh Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills.

Morgan is clearly relishing the attention, waving his arms, drawing laughs and enjoying an ankle bracelet-free existence after having the court-mandated alcohol monitoring device — a punishment stemming from a string of DUI-related convictions and probation violations beginning in 2005 — removed recently.

The comic, best-known for his seven-year stint on Saturday Night Live and appearances in films such as How High and Head Of State, is playing large before his fans in the Four Seasons when, randomly, In Living Color alum Tommy Davidson joins the party followed later by Christopher “Kid” Reid (of Kid ‘N Play fame) for a goof-filled nightcap.

The next day Morgan explains how he retired responsibly at around 2 a.m. for the following day’s interviews to promote his new film First Sunday, in which he co-stars with Are We Done Yet’s Ice Cube.

The film is Morgan’s biggest break to date and marks a possible end to a virtual Dickensian period of best and worst times.

“I got a whole renaissance going on,” he exalts. “I’m about to start writing an autobiography, Tracy Morgan: Don’t Shoot The Messenger ... it’s a renaissance for me and it feels good.

“My whole career I’ve lived for this moment. It’s like fighting for the belt, fighting for the title ... the genie’s out of the bottle and he’s not going back in for nobody.”

Morgan, whose father performed stand-up while serving in Vietnam, plays the simple-minded Lee-John in First Sunday. In the film, he and Cube’s character Durell conspire to rob a local church to raise funds to get the former out of debt with a Jamaican gang and so the latter can give money to his estranged wife to keep her from relocating to another city with their son.

The 39-year-old Morgan, himself a father of three sons aged 22, 20 and 16, now finds himself a much sought-after talent following years spent riding the fringes of mainstream comic success.

“How do I juggle? With the help of God, and just do it,” he answers when asked to explain the balance required by life in the public eye.

“Some people can multitask, some people can’t. I’m doing it one day at a time, I’m taking it slow and I drink a lot of water. I’ve been doing this so long that I know how to do it.”

It’s unclear whether it was merely water Morgan was enjoying the night before, but he’s clearly trying to maintain a healthy perspective and learn from his past indiscretions.

“I would love to have a legacy,” he says when comparisons to his comedic heroes such as Eddie Murphy are raised, “but we all have trials and tribulations. Nobody’s perfect. That’s part of your legacy is the mistakes you’ve made. Sometimes the road gets a little bumpy, but not too bumpy.”

  • First Sunday opens in theatres tomorrow.