Joe Morton

Active - 1977 - 2021  |   Born - Oct 18, 1947 in New York, New York, United States  |   Genres - Drama, History, Crime

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Biography by Tracie Cooper

Though he spent most of his childhood in Japan and Europe, Joe Morton, along with his mother and remaining family, moved from Germany to New York after the passing of his father. While he hadn't given acting an incredible amount of thought during his adolescence, Morton decided to pursue a career in the performing arts during his first day at Hofstra University. After his first professional acting job in an off-Broadway production of A Month of Sundays, Morton was cast in Hair (1968), and subsequently became a well-known name within Broadway circles. Morton's role in Raisin, a musical version of A Raisin in the Sun, earned him a Tony nomination. Though he didn't manage to snag the award, the young actor nonetheless found work on several popular television shows of the time, including M*A*S*H and Mission: Impossible. By the late '70s, Morton had appeared in a variety of equally acclaimed films, such as The Outside Man (1973), Between the Lines (1977), and ...And Justice for All (1979).

After continuing his work in television, Morton made his first leading-man feature-film appearance as "The Brother," an intergalactic escaped slave, in John Sayles' 1984 hit The Brother From Another Planet. A year later, Morton could be seen in a supporting capacity alongside Lori Singer and Keith Carradine in the post-noir romantic drama Trouble in Mind (1985). Though Morton found no small amount of work during the 1980s, it wasn't until 1991 that he would play one of the most recognizable roles of his career: the cyborg-components researcher in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. However, Terminator 2 was by no means the peak in his career -- that same year, he reunited with Sayles and played a frustrated city councilman in City of Hope. In 1994, Morton portrayed a police captain in Speed, and, after a recurring role on NBC's Homicide: Life on the Street, starred in two highly lauded films: The Walking Dead (1995), in which he played a deeply religious marine, and Lone Star (1996), another John Sayles film. By this stage in his career, Morton had developed a reputation for playing scientists and government officials, and his role as an explosives expert in Executive Decision (1996) was no exception. However, Morton was certainly not incapable of more emotional fare, as demonstrated in his performance in HBO's Miss Evers' Boys, which won three Emmy awards in 1997. In 1998, Morton further avoided typecasting with his role in Blues Brothers 2000 as Cabel Chamberlain, the son of music man Curtis (Cab Calloway) from the original film.

The early 2000s proved an equally busy time for Morton, who, aside from participating in numerous documentaries and made-for-television features, continued his role as Leon Chiles in NBC's Law & Order, and began regularly appearing as Dr. Steve Hamilton on the WB's Smallville. During this time, he could also be seen in supporting performances for What Lies Beneath (2000), Bounce (2000), and Ali (2001). 2003 found Morton playing another government agent in Paycheck, while 2004 brought another opportunity altogether -- Morton took the director's seat for Sunday on the Rocks. Also that year, Morton joined director Rob Cohen to film Stealth. A recurring role on the Pentagon television drama E-Ring found the actor continuing on his impressive television run, with a supporting role in the 2006 feature The Night Listener serving well to keep Morton's feature credits expanding as well.

A contributing narrator of the long-running PBS series The American Experience, Morton became a familiar voice to television viewers who refused to switch their brains off for prime-time viewing. But it was recurring roles in both The Good Wife and Eureka that helped to keep him a familar face to more casual TV fans.

Movie Highlights

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  • Decided to pursue a career in performing arts on his first day at Hofstra University.
  • Made his Broadway debut in 1968 in the musical Hair.
  • Starred in John Sayles' 1984 cult classic, The Brother from Another Planet.
  • Was cast in two biopics about boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
  • Landed recurring roles on Law & Order and Smallville.
  • Was the reader for Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man audiobook.