Interview

ICYMI: Mishael Morgan Interview

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Credit: CBS

Mishael Morgan will mark five years as the self-involved Hilary Curtis in June, and it’s a milestone that the actress can’t quite comprehend. “It feels like it happened at lightning speed,” she marvels. “I still remember my first day and I still remember who I was on my first day. Although it feels like the time has gone by so fast, I definitely feel like a different person. I do feel I’ve been transformed and Hilary had a lot to do with it. Playing this character and diving into that part of myself definitely has had a lot to do with changes in my own life, my own self and my own personality. I’m not becoming Hilary but she’s definitely made me stronger and proud to be a woman.”

As a longtime viewer of the No. 1 soap, Morgan is still gobsmacked that Hilary is a prominent fixture in Genoa City. “It’s so surreal and crazy,” she admits. “I just feel so lucky and I’m in awe of that. When I watched Y&R growing up, women like Sheila and Phyllis were my favorite characters because you just never knew what you were going to get. When Hilary started becoming that, I knew exactly the route she was going and I was excited about it. However, I remember there was a likability about those mean characters, so I was treading this line of, I don’t want to go too far because I didn’t know at what point Hilary would become unlikable.”

Some advice from Peter Bergman (Jack) gave the actress just the guidance she needed. “He said, ‘Go balls to the wall and be as mean as you can be, just be unapologetically mean,’ ” she recalls. “It felt like getting permission, so I started doing that and it was crazy how much people loved mean Hilary. Falling into that, I found Hilary and the truth of her. I felt like the meaner I became, the deeper I would get into her psyche of who she is. I think that’s part of why she’s becoming such a popular character. I’m so proud and happy that I was part of creating her.”

Morgan says she looks forward to getting her scripts to see what her alter ego is up to in each episode. “I love Hilary now,” declares her portrayer. “I think we’re seeing all of the bits and pieces, and everything that I feel like I’ve been creating over the years is now coming to fruition. I feel like the writers get her and they’re writing for her. When I read the scripts, I can hear Hilary’s voice before I even say the line. I really feel like there’s a huge collaboration going on with my character and with the writers and the producers. They’re finding different nuances and more fun things to do with her.”

Morgan also credits her co-stars for helping her to shine, such as real-life bestie Christel Khalil, who plays Hilary’s antagonist, Lily. “It’s so fun when we get to play those scenes where they’re awful to each other,” she smiles. “Because we are friends, we know we can just go all the way. The more these women push each other’s buttons, the more fun it is for us. Hilary’s all over the place and Lily’s like, ‘There’s nothing you can do that will affect my life,’ and that drives Hilary crazy!’ ”

Morgan also has a ball when Hilary shares the screen with Camryn Grimes’s Mariah. “Camryn is the best when it comes to comedy,” Morgan enthuses. “Every single time we get scenes, it’s almost like an exercise in improv for us. We’re always playing with it and trying to find new things. We banter off each other and we have fun from the second we get on the stage to the second we leave.”

Although Morgan is a devoted mom, she had a very different take about playing one on TV when Hilary decided to have a baby on her own. “My initial reaction was laughter and then more laughter!” she confesses. “I was surprised, but at the same time there was a part of me that thought it was the perfect storyline to really get to know who Hilary is. She really wants a child so we’ll see that soft side of her, but it’s not going to be very easy for her, and Hilary’s claws will have to come out in order to make her dream happen. This is going to give me an opportunity to play both sides.”

Luckily, there’s less drama in Morgan’s real life with husband Navid and their son, Niam. Of the toddler, his mama says, “He’s rambunctious, kind and sweet but he’s also wild and crazy. He’s so independent and it’s adorable. He already wants to put on clothes by himself and also he wants to choose what to wear. The other day I put something on him and he was like, ‘No, don’t like,’ and he started taking it off. Now I feel uncomfortable because he’s judging my style [laughs].”

Plans to give Niam a sibling are fluid for now. “We definitely are in our own groove and we want to enjoy it for a bit,” she demurs. “I have this feeling that if I have a baby just so Niam can have a brother or sister, he’s probably going to hate them. So, I think it’s really about when my husband and I feel ready again, maybe another year or so.”

Now that the family has settled permanently in Los Angeles (see sidebar), Morgan wouldn’t mind doing the same on Y&R. “I love my character and I’m doing something I love every day,” she enthuses. “I wholeheartedly believe that if everybody could do that, you’d never work a day in your life. That’s what I feel like, I haven’t worked a day in five years!”

Just The Facts

Birthday: July 15

Born In: San Fernando, Trinidad, raised in Toronto, Canada.

Family Affair: Married since May 2012 to Navid. They have a son, Niam, 2. “He entered the terrible twos at
18 months.”

How She Lost That Pregnancy Weight: “Mommy stress.”

What She Misses About Toronto: “The multiculturalism. Toronto has every culture from every corner of the world. I really miss the diversity in the food that you can find in the restaurants. Above all, I miss my family.”

Home Insecurity: “I would visit Trinidad every two years, but now it’s been about five years, because there’s so much crime going on there. It’s my country, my home and my people, so it’s very sad to me. I’m hoping that the corruption in the Caribbean as a whole starts to resolve itself soon so that everybody can enjoy the beauty that’s there.”

Which Co-Star She Would Like More Scenes With: “Jason [Thompson, Billy]. There’s been a couple of scenes with Hilary and Billy that have been interesting, and I only hear great things about him. More time with Billy might piss Phyllis off, though.”

Did You Know

• During her first year of college, Morgan broke her neck in a car accident but thanks to surgery, she made a full recovery.

• She recently went to Tulum, Mexico, with a group of friends, including Christel Khalil (Lily) and Bryton James (Devon). “We rented a big house for all of us and we really took advantage of the slow lifestyle. We hung out on the beach and went to the different restaurants. It was awesome.”

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Daddy Day Care

Morgan and husband Navid initially had a modern marriage, which included him living in Toronto and her in Los Angeles. When their son was born, however, “I dragged him out here!” she laughs. “I told him I’m not having a long-distance marriage with a child, so we had to look at who made more money and we made the decision that I would be the breadwinner, which is a new reality that a lot of people are experiencing. In the beginning, my husband thought he would be the only one doing this and he was shocked at how many stay-at-home dads he was meeting in L.A.” Now that Niam is attending preschool, “He’s going for half a day, so my husband’s been keeping himself busy,” says Morgan. “We’re doing some house renovations now and since he’s done construction for years he’s very handy. He’s also starting his own business, so that’s like a new adventure for us.”

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