Go Away With … Joe Morton


JM8 Bobby Quillard photo

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Content Agency
October 27, 2015

Fans love to hate Joe Morton’s portrayal of Rowan (Olivia Pope’s father) on the hit ABC drama, “Scandal.” The actor, 68, remembers, “I was in Williamstown, Mass., to see some plays and this woman came up to me and said, ‘I didn’t recognize you right away, but I knew I hated you!’” Laughing, he adds, “We had a lovely long conversation after that. But people do react to my role on ‘Scandal.’”

Born in Harlem and raised in Okinawa and Germany for part of his childhood, the Emmy Award-winning actor returns to his theater roots in 2016. He is set to portray civil rights activist and comedian Dick Gregory in the one-man show “Turn Me Loose” at New York’s Apollo Theatre. Fans may follow Morton on Twitter.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?

A. (My girlfriend Christine and I) have had some really good trips. We had wonderful times in Prague. It has changed over the years. It used to be a hidden kind of treasure that people would visit to see castles and bridges. By the time we got there, there were lots of restaurants with pictures of food outside. There was lots of panhandling on the bridges. But it was still gorgeous and the restaurants we ate at were some wonderful ones. One was like a grotto where most people spoke Czech.

Q. What is the best way to acclimate yourself to a new country?

A. Go where the locals go. We didn’t stay in town in one of the fancy hotels. We found an inexpensive hotel in Old Prague where few people spoke English. We went to the local market in the morning to get coffee and fruit and kind of did sign language with the woman who ran it who would help me with the currency. In the hotel, I got recognized from my work in “Terminator 2” and they asked me, “Why are you here?” (Laughs) They wanted to know why I wasn’t in a swanky hotel. I enjoy being with locals. At one point, we got on a train without knowing where it was going just to see what that part of Prague was like. It was great to be on a train to see the people and the area.

Q. Do you enjoy doing touristy things?

A. In general, I enjoy finding and exploring things rather than being led around. But I have to say, when we were in London, we did one of those bus tours where you can get on and off. And it was fun and a good way to get our bearings and kind of keep an eye out for what we wanted to explore later on our own.

Q. What is on your travel bucket list?

A. I’d love to go to China. I’d love to go to Hungary and visit Budapest. I want to go to Iceland. I actually lived in Okinawa and would love to go back. I’d like to get to Cuba sooner rather than later. I have a fear that it’s going to change. Christine was there years ago.

Q. Are you good at learning new languages?

A. I try, but I’m not good. When I was a kid, I could speak fluent Okinawan since I was young and lived in Okinawa for 3-1/2 years. We had an Okinawan maid and gardener. Then we lived in Japan for about six months. The languages weren’t that different, so it wasn’t difficult for me to switch between both. I would love to re-learn Japanese again. We also have some property in Costa Rica. I took high school Spanish and if we’re there for a while, I can remember enough to speak a little Spanish. When we went to Paris, I boned up on our French so we wouldn’t come across as snobby Americans. In Czechoslovakia, it was more difficult. We went at the last minute. Most people in Prague speak English, but I didn’t really understand any Czech at all.

Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?

A. In the summertime, we’d go to Orchard Beach near the Bronx in New York. We would vacation with relatives from both sides of the family. I remember those trips well.

Q. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your travels?

A. That the common denominator is that people are people wherever you are in the world. It’s wonderful to sit down and just talk and get to know one another over a good meal. It’s kind of like what Anthony Bourdain does when he talks to people in his travels. What that ultimately does is it puts borders down.

Q. Have you had an Ugly American moment?

A. I hope not, but we have experienced one. I remember an embarrassing moment in Paris. We were in a wine store trying to speak French. The proprietor said, “Don’t worry,” and spoke to us in English. An American woman walked in and scolded us for speaking English in France. She had no idea that we had been speaking French prior to her arrival. But she just came across as very arrogant and parental. The proprietor just kind of looked at her and continued to speak English with us.

Q. What are your five favorite cities?

A. New York, Paris, London, Tokyo and Chicago.

Q. What would be your dream/fantasy trip?

A. I would love to spend as much time as possible in different African countries. I don’t really know those countries, except for the things I’ve read. We vacationed before in South Africa and spent time on the Cape and it was just spectacular. It’s a really beautiful country and we made lots of great friends there.

© 2015 JAE-HA KIM


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