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 • Featured  • From Virginia to Hollywood: A conversation with Morgan Avery McCoy

From Virginia to Hollywood: A conversation with Morgan Avery McCoy

Some people are born stars and Morgan Avery McCoy is one of those people.  A native of Newport News, VA, the starlet shot her way up from her beginnings as a theatre major in Hampton University to shining brightly on the silver screen as Jesse in the box office hit film Harriet. But surviving in Hollywood isn’t this starlet’s only passion. She’s also a story teller and she makes a point to share her story wherever people will listen. 

What was your experience like working on the set of Harriet?

Breathtaking! Kassi Lemmons is an amazing director who was just so gracious to everyone on set and created a really great work environment that honored the legacy of Harriet Tubman. It was an honor to be in scenes with Cynthia Erivo and Janelle Monet who are both rockstars literally and figuratively in their craft. They were both extremely humble, kind and just great to work with. While on set, I saw how the whole team from every side of production  worked in excellence and reverence to honor this great “Shero.” There were times when I got goosebumps just watching things unfold on set.  It was a powerful experience

How has working on this project inspired you?

Man, watching the film was life-changing. I’ve seen Harriet seven times now and each time I leave with an extra sparkle, pep in my step, and ready to overcome whatever negativity comes my way. The film was so well done. I mean I  read the script, but seeing the completed project at screenings and at theaters with friends and family was such an ethereal experience. I’ve always believed that God can give you the power to overcome and use the things in your life that caused the greatest pain to bring forth your greatest purpose. Within this film, you see Harriet’s faith in God and her ability to push past the limits and restraints others tried to place on her, her family and her people. Her selfless act of turning her pain to purpose motivates me to continue to do the same.

It’s our understanding that a big portion of the film was shot locally. Do you think richmond will be seeing more film projects?

Yes, absolutely! Virginia is for lovers and filmmakers. I think Hollywood is seeing how Richmond and surrounding areas are a viable place to shoot. I travel a lot for work, so it was nice being able to shoot in my own backyard. We have Andy Edmonds and his team at Virginia Film Office and the Virginia Production Alliance really working hard to showcase Virginia as a wonderful place to make a movie or episodic project. They are doing a great job with that, and right now we have two or three projects being shot in the area and I believe we’ll have more to come. 

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As a young girl, McCoy had the privilege of seeing Delegate Mary T. Christian do a dramatic presentation of James Weldon Johnson’s monologue piece, The Creation. McCoy was mesmerized by the performance, along with the rest of the audience, who at the end, gave a standing ovation.  “I want to do that,” said McCoy to her mother.  And soon after, she was enrolled in acting classes. This began McCoy’s journey as a storyteller. 

What type of stories do you like to tell?

I prefer telling stories that inspire people. Period pieces are a passion of mine, telling stories of those who have gone before us. Also, I really enjoy sharing stories that bring attention to social justice issues as well that educate and motivate. I’m definitely a hopeless romantic, so I love working on rom coms too! It’s a case by case basis and I have to see if the project works for me.

What have been some magical moments or highlights of your career?

There have been some great experiences I’ve had throughout my career. I’d have to say that one of those moments was when I received a call from Academy Award winner Louis Gossess Jr. applauding me for my work with my one woman show Evolution of a Black Girl: From the Slave House to the White House. He later became my travel sponsor for my 2015 30 college multistate tour. That was amazing. My most recent highlight was having the privilege of being cast in the biopic Harriet! When I got the call that I was chosen to play the character of Jesse, I was just so grateful and humbled to be selected to be a part of this amazing story about a woman I’ve admired all of my life. It was truly an answer to prayer. Then to find out that my scenes were with Cynthia, I was beyond ecstatic. She’s at the top of her game, so it was such a privilege having the opportunity to work with her. She deserves every award she will get for this role.

For any readers who are aspiring filmmakers, what would you tell them?

I tell the kids I mentor that they were born an original, so don’t die a copy, which applies to adults too. I think one of the most unfortunate things to see is someone who lives a life of regret, so just go for it. If you’re afraid, do it afraid. Stay true to who you are, train and make connections. You don’t have to be like someone else, be the best at being you. There is a project looking for you, so be ready! I’m a living witness.

For more information on Morgan Visit www.morganaverymccoy.com. To catch Morgan’s next one woman show performance, visit www.evolutionofablackgirl.com or follow her on Facebook & Instagram @Morganaverymccoy for release dates on film and tv projects. 

Ashley Jefferson is the editor-in-chief of River City Style. She currently lives in the Arts District with her fiance, and her Maltese-mix named Asha.

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