4/3/85 Dallas Morning News 1F
1985 WL 4022655
The Dallas Morning News
Wednesday, April 3, 1985
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
MORSE LIVES BY HIS OWN QUIET CODE
He'd rather be elsewhere, almost anywhere but in front of a tape recorder.
David Morse, who plays the principled, almost pristine Dr. Jack Morrison on NBC's St. Elsewhere, is studying, but still flunking Promotion 101.
"They quickly found I'm not very good at this stuff, so they shifted some of the brunt to other people, he said, smiling softly. "I kind of recognize the importance of doing it and I'm trying to learn how to do it a little bit and feel a little more comfortable doing it.
Following doctor's orders, he sat down with a reporter in a Dallas hotel restaurant. He seemed to agree with the observation that he's as quiet as Dr. Morrison is on TV screens, but said nothing in response. An ABC publicist was with him to ensure that not all of the conversation was about St. Elsewhere.
Morse is co-starring in When Dreams Come True, a two-hour ABC movie being made in the Dallas area and scheduled to air May 28. His character, described as a "sensuous stranger, makes love to Cindy Williams, first in her dreams, later in real life. Meanwhile, Lee Horsley, star of ABC's Matt Houston series, is chasing a serial killer who preys on young women. Dallas will be named in the film as the city where the murders occur. That sets up an unsettling parrallel with events in Fort Worth, where police continue to track the killer of several young women. Morse and the ABC publicist said they were unaware of Fort Worth's string of murders.
Morse is trying to remove the halo he's been wearing since coming to Hollywood in 1982. As a member of New York's Circle Repertory Company, he played a variety of roles, including villains. But since St. Elsewhere, which concluded its third season last Wednesday, "everybody wants me to play priests, Morse said. "I don't want to make a career out of playing priests and saints.
Earlier this season, he wore a clerical collar in the NBC movie, Shattered Vows. Morse liked the movie, but "hated his performance.
"It was 100 steps backward for me, he said.
St. Elsewhere ended its third season with the unexpected departure of hospital administrator Dr. Donald Westphall (Ed Flanders), who said he was leaving medicine. Earlier this season, series regular Dr. Peter White (Terrence Knox) was killed by nurse Shirley Daniels (Ellen Bry) after he raped Dr. Cathy Martin (Barbara Whinnery). At the end of the 1983-'84 season, Dr. Wendy Armstrong (Kim Miyori) died of a drug overdose. Because she died, Morse's character was allowed to live. He had been dropped from the St. Elsewhere residency program until Dr. Armstrong's death created a vacancy.
"I don't know whether he's (Flanders) going to be back or not, said Morse, who hasn't seen this season's last episode yet. "I'm sure he will be, but they don't tell us anything...I don't think it's a pleasant thing to walk around with the knowledge that you're expendable and can be poisoned or shot or turned into a rapist at any minute. But that's the nature of television. That goes for executives as well as actors. That's part of what we live with.
Executive Producer Bruce Paltrow first knocked off a regular character while masterminding The White Shadow series for CBS.
"It really disturbed everybody, and he (Paltrow) loved the effect it had, Morse said. "I think he gets excited by doing this kind of stuff, pulling things on the audience unexpectedly. He feels it's part of reality.
At the beginning of this season, Morse said he was told that Dr. Morrison would be benched more often.
"They felt my character had gotten a lot of exposure the first two seasons, and they wanted to concentrate on some of the other ones, like Dr. Westphall, he said. "They wanted to mess him up a bit, so they spent the season doing that.
"Everyone on the show, when they're not in the script, they feel they're getting slighted, Morse said. "There's really that high school kid actor in all of us. As soon as we get the script, we count the lines to see how big our part's going to be. It's one of those things you just can't help. But for the most part, most of us are very professional and respect each other and like each other. I don't think there are any genuine hard feelings or bitterness toward each other.
The character of Dr. Morrison, too "saintly in Morse's view, was "brought down a little bit this season, he said.
"No one ever believes it, he added, "but I was kind of brought up doing comedy. This character is very serious, and I would like to find a comic side to him. But they (the producers) don't see him that way. They've given all of us pretty much our little formulas, and they stick to that.
Morse has appeared in only one theatrical movie, Inside Moves, which he made before joining the cast of St. Elsewhere. He was offered a role in Mrs. Soffel--Matthew Modine played it instead--but his St. Elsewhere schedule couldn't accommodate it.
After he finishes When Dreams Come True, there is another possible acting job awaiting him before production on St. Elsewhere resumes in late June.
"If I tell you about it, it won't happen, Morse said, pleasantly. "So I will tell you nothing.
His answers continued to get shorter, but the interview had been far better than nothing.
"You look like you'd like to leave, Morse was told.
He looked appreciative, said nothing.