PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Machinal Star Morgan Spector

By Matthew Blank
January 21, 2014

Morgan Spector is featured in the Roundabout Theatre Company's new Broadway production of Sophie Treadwell's Machinal. He fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.



Spector most recently performed on Broadway with Jim Parsons and Jessica Hecht in the Roundabout Theatre Company revival of Harvey. He made his Broadway debut as Rodolpho with Liev Schreiber, Scarlett Johansson, and Jessica Hecht in the Tony Award-winning revival of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge.

He was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for his performance in the world premiere of Russian Transport at The New Group Theatre Off-Broadway. Other significant stage performances include Dissonance (Bay Street), Yanks workshop directed by David Cromer; The Lion King National Tour; Enemies: A Love Story (Wilma Theatre).

On television, Spector portrayed Frank Capone in “Boardwalk Empire” (HBO). He just filmed a series regular lead role for acclaimed writer David Milch in “The Money” (HBO). He recurs as Peter Yogorov on “Person of Interest” (CBS) and has made guest star appearances on “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix), “Zero Hour” (ABC), “Do No Harm” (NBC) and “How To Make it in America” (HBO).



Full given name: Morgan Michael Douglas Spector. Michael was my paternal great grandfather's name, and the Douglas is for William O. Douglas, the great progressive Supreme Court justice.
Where you were born/where you were raised: I was born in Santa Rosa, CA, and grew up in Guerneville, about 25 minutes northwest. Redwoods, vineyards, hippies young and old.
Zodiac Sign: I’m a Libra.
What your parents did/do for a living: They're both retired now. My mom worked in public education for most of her career, first as a teacher and then as an administrator. My dad was an attorney for awhile and then part of the vanguard of the stay at home dad movement.
Siblings: I have a younger brother Michael who supports himself mainly through arm wrestling competitions. He's like Sylvester Stallone in "Over the Top," but with much more elegant thumbs.
Special skills: Having deeply held convictions about any damn thing whatsoever.
Something you're REALLY bad at: If you think about how good you have to be at something to really be good at it, I guess I'm bad at an oceanic vastness of things.
First Broadway show you ever saw: I think it was either Les Mis or Man of La Mancha.
If you could go back in time and catch any Broadway show, what would it be? My grandma was an actress in the Yiddish Theatre here in New York. I would love to go back and see her do Shakespeare in Yiddish.
Did you have any particular mentors or inspirations as a young actor? One thing I think about a lot, actually, is doing plays at River Repertory Theatre in Jenner, CA, when I was really little and having this feeling of there being a sort of palpable energetic field that existed in the space between us and the audience. And that I could affect that field-change that space-and consequently affect the audience. It felt like magic. Still pretty much does.
Current show other than your own you have been recommending to friends: It's not a play, but everyone should watch Charlie Brooker's show "Black Mirror." It's absolutely brilliant and terrifying.
Favorite showtune(s) of all time: "The Impossible Dream"
Favorite musicals: I actually love Cabaret, but I only know the film and Joel Grey's insanely wonderful performance. I'm excited to see it this season.
Some favorite modern plays: The Homecoming, Pillowman, Edmund, Endgame
The one performance – attended - that you will never forget: I couldn't talk about Mark Rylance in Jerusalem without basically falling apart for about a year after I saw the show.


Music that makes you cry, any genre: Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass. I saw it when it was at BAM last season. It was definitely a highlight of my life.
You personal acting idols: Gary Oldman, Dustin Hoffman, Cary Grant, and the late great James Gandolfini, among many others.
MAC or PC? I've been an Apple kid since the 80s.
Most played song on your iPod: At this very moment it's the song "On The Water" by The Walkmen.
Last book you read: "Difficult Men" by Brett Martin. It's a really neat history of the lead up to what he calls the "third golden age of television"; basically the cable drama explosion that started with "The Sopranos." It's a great read.
Must-see TV show(s): "Boardwalk Empire," "Mad Men," "Bob’s Burgers," the BBC "Sherlock," "The Fall," "Top of the Lake," "Colbert Report," "Luther" (which I guess is over), "The Killing" (Peter Sarsgaard in season 3, episode 10 is just phenomenal).
Last good movie you saw: "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre"
Some films you consider classics: "The Last Dragon," "Streets of Fire"
Performer you would drop everything to go see: Kurt Vile
Pop culture guilty pleasure: "Scandal"
Three favorite cities: New York, San Francisco, Guerneville (yeah, it's not a city.)
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: I think my first tape was probably "To the Extreme" by Vanilla Ice or "Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em" by MC Hammer. I might have bought them together. I am a late 20th century bourgeois cliché.
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: The first time anyone hired me. Goddamn that is a good feeling.
Favorite pre-/post- show meal: (note where) Tabata Ramen on 40th and 9th. Spicy miso with pork.
Favorite liquid refreshment: Coffee. Right now there's a bottle of Templeton rye in the dressing room.
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: Do a little yoga. Breathe. Hum. Make sure my body is awake and loose.
Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap: Once I was supposed to play the clarinet onstage and for some reason when I went to play it, no sound came out. I had a two minute solo, probably so I could cover costume changes or something. So I stood there and made "I'm playing a clarinet" gestures for about 80 years.
Worst costume ever: I was in a play my friend wrote in which I appeared in a velour thong with a gas mask affixed to the front. The line between worst and best is not as clear as you might think.
Worst job you ever had: I worked at a restaurant in the Meatpacking District when I first got to New York that was managed by a man with absolutely no regard for human dignity and no chin, as I recall.
What drew you to this project? Everything. The play, the company, the director, Lindsey Turner. Also, I don't know that many actors who say no to Broadway plays.
What has been the biggest challenge so far? I think we all believe that this show could possibly, actually be art, which creates an extraordinary standard for our work. Very exciting, but also kind of harrowing at times.
Most challenging role you have played onstage: I think the answer will always be whichever one I'm playing at the moment.
Leading man role you've been dying to play: When they do the Broadway musical version of "Streets of Fire," I will play Billy Fish.
Leading lady role you wish you could play: I always wanted to play Solange in The Maids.
Career you would want if not a performer: I was just having this conversation. I'd want to be an intrepid reporter. A muckraker. Basically I'd want to be Glenn Greenwald.
Career you would want if not a performer: Treasure Hunter. Not an archaeologist, per se. Just a dude with a metal detector searching for buried relics.
"I'll never understand why…" … people accuse Philip Roth of being a misogynist.
Words of advice for aspiring performers: Relinquish all expectations.