Morgan Avery Mccoy not only is a multi-facet award-winning entrepreneur, but is an experienced writer, producer, and director. Additionally, she is an amazing spirit that shines bright as the stars! What an award-winning personality!
What a positive role model for this generation of young women! Here's what she told me about her journey.
Tell us about your background and upbringing?
I grew up in an incredibly supportive and loving home. My mom and dad are entrepreneurs who were told that they would not be able to have children, but they prayed and promised the Lord if He blessed them with a child they would dedicate him/her back to Him. When they had me, that’s exactly what they did. Anything I wanted to try, they encouraged me to do so I’ve been in tap classes, ballet, voice, piano, and drama. The only thing that stuck with me was my love for theater. I was this incredibly shy little girl who came alive on stage. Thankfully, I was brought up with my parents who fueled my passion instead of quenching my dreams. After graduating valedictorian of my high school and enrolling at Hampton University, everyone told my parents to make me major in something else as a “backup”. However, I knew that this was the industry God called me to and majored in Theater Performance at HU. At the time, I didn’t see myself desiring to do anything besides acting but while at Hampton I discovered a genuine love and gift for writing and directing as well which is what led to me pursuing my MA in film producing from Regent. After finishing school, I’ve been working in my field and thankful for every minute of it- from producing my award-winning one-woman show to acting in Oscar-nominated films, to directing my first feature, to ghostwriting scripts, and mentoring young people. It's been a truly blessed and exciting journey.
Where are you from?
I’m originally from Newport News, Virginia, the 757!
Where are you currently living?
Currently, my base is in Richmond, Virginia. Pre-pandemic I was traveling all over, but my base is in Richmond with my hubby, Marco.
What would you like to share with the public that makes you Unique?
I’m unapologetically a lover of Jesus, people, storytelling, and my blackness all at the same time. Growing up people tried to put me in a box saying that I had to choose between my faith and my art or my culture. However, God created me to be creative, to be in the skin I’m in, and to help people be their best selves through the stories I tell or help tell. My passions don't compete, they are intricately intertwined, and I am consistently committed to all of them. This is who I am fully and completely. Growing up I was told you had to choose are you a person of faith or are you an artist because you can’t be both. My faith enables me to be a better artist and storyteller. I always say if Jesus walked this earth today, I think he would be a filmmaker.
What are the lessons that you've learned through your experiences that you would like to share with everyone?
Trust God and trust the process. I know that might sound cliche, but it is so true. As artists we take pride in our work, we work long hours, grind, push, market, sell, create, and repeat. It can be draining, and you might wonder when will my big “break” be. I’ve discovered that the “big break” is made up of the diligence and excellence you put forth to create the “little breaks” that transform into those big break moments. After school, I was acting in indie film and tv projects (little breaks) perfecting my craft and meeting some really dope people who introduced me to other dope people. These interactions led to me producing my one-woman show Evolution of a Black Girl: From the Slave House to the White House.
I started touring the show in churches, cafes, rec centers, small theaters, libraries (little breaks). I was diligent and grateful during that time and then Academy Award Winner Louis Gossett Jr. was told about my show watched some clips and called me to encourage me to keep up the great work. It meant so much to have someone of his caliber take the time to reach out and say let me know how I can support what you are doing. Fast forward I was booked for a 30 multi-state college tour and Mr. Gossett co-sponsored my travel- crisscrossing the US and has since become one of my mentors.
Also, listen to the directions you’ve been given. For example, I was thrilled to be cast in the film Harriet starring Cynthia Erivo and Janelle Monet being directed by Kassi Lemons was a dream come true. The backstory for me though is that two years ago my husband and I were in an awful car accident where we both suffered brain trauma. At the time, I didn't know whether I would be able to act again. As a result of the accident I had massive headaches that prohibited me from getting my hair straight, so I was wearing wigs. My husband loves natural hair LOVES it. I like it on other people, but I never thought it would look good on me, so I was rocking my wigs. (I promise this is relevant) One day, I was in the restroom fixing up my wig and I felt like God said to wear my hair natural. At that time, I brushed it off. Nah, Morgan, you are tripping, but I did it. I was mad because I didn’t know anything about styling natural hair. One week later I was in NY with my natural hairstyle and I get an email about submitting for the Harriet film and natural hair preferred. My mind was blown!!! I had no idea what was coming down the pipeline for me, but God did. Since I didn’t have any natural hair headshots, I hired a photographer to meet me in Central Park that day to take my natural hair headshot and then submitted it for the part that day. They called me in for an audition and the rest is history.
How do you handle opposition?
Absolutely, there were a variety of times where I doubted Whether I would be able to be the actress that I wanted to be. Before I developed an interest in becoming a writer and director, my heart desire was to become an actress. That desire developed at the age of seven.
Such as the same with many children, I experienced many challenges and struggled in areas of focus and confidence. I struggled with believing within myself that I could be good enough.
So, when I turned 16, I had to decide whether I was going to pursue acting as a career or listen to the alternate views of the many who cautioned me about putting an alternative plan into action just in case I was unsuccessful in the pursuits of my dreams.
So, I prayed, asking God if this is what he wanted me to do. I needed a clear sign that this was the right path for me. You see, before I prayed, I did a lot of teeter-tottering. I wavered in my mind, because I was not totally convinced with precise clarity or with the confidence like a fulfill this purpose and that acting was indeed God's will for my life. And even though my parents enrolled me in a prestigious “New York” based “Broadway camp”, I still could not verify nor say with certainty that this was what I was called to do. Honestly, Prayer has played the biggest role in my encouragement and confirming my direction.
Another thing that has helped me is having a supportive family. They believed in me when I and then believe in myself. And, in those moments when I wanted to give up, they pushed me to strive towards excellence and to my sprint towards my highest potential. They told me that I could do it, and that made a world of difference to me.
Going back to when I attended the New York “acting camp”, I Was asked to perform a monologue in front of a plethora of casting directors and every actor that performed monologues, I noticed that the casting director cut them off and would not allow them to finish. It reminded me of American Idol. Because of what I saw it made me extremely nervous. Well, it turns out, that out of 16 actors, I was the only person that they allowed to finish the monologue.
After my performance, one of the actors from The TV series, “Growing Pains” Approached me and said to me, “I want you to know That if you want to do this you need to do this!” This is exactly what I prayed for when I was a 16-year-old little girl just trying to figure it out.
I would like to say that that was the only time that I questioned my call, but it was not. There were many times when I question my purpose. But, as I stated previously, having family and faith Gave me exactly what I needed to keep pushing forward.
So, after I finished college, A friend of mine informed me about a casting opportunity in a big-time musical associated with a major celebrity. The only drawback was that I couldn’t sing. But, regardless of what my mind told me about my inability to sing, I didn’t let that detour me from auditioning. I thought that maybe if I took a shot at it, someone might see something spectacular in me.
While auditioning, I was hoping they would let me act first. I thought to myself, that I could act first it might make them forget about the fact that I could not sing.
But as life would have it, the opposite happened. They wanted me to sing first! So of course, I had to tell them that I couldn't sing, and I remember someone telling me, “sweetie, don't you know that this is a musical?” I think that was the most embarrassing moment of my life. I remember there being a piano player there who accompanied me while auditioning my song. I was so off! It was horrible!
I think that was the straw that broke the camel’s back! At that moment I told my parents I quit! I wasted your money, and I am sorry! I told him that I was just going to get a regular job and that's what I was going to do. On that same day, I a guy told me that his way of dealing with and getting through this type of situation is to just take a shot of whiskey and forget about it. I guess for some, that would be the solution but as for me, I don't drink.
On the contrary, I've learned at maximizing my potential, praying about it, then progressing to the next level, is the best thing for me to do. So that's exactly what I decided to do. I had to learn the proper balance between projection and acceptance. I decided to pursue my dreams despite of my fears and the challenges that come along with being in the entertainment industry.
How do you handle the no’ s?
I genuinely believe that what God has for me is for me. I genuinely believe that my steps are ordered by the Lord. I also believe that whatever God's wills for me, it will come to pass. Whether I'm to do a project in a studio, serve as a director or executive producer, I believe, that whatever God wills for me, it will come to pass. You cannot stop it. So, because I am firmly rooted in that mindset, this is what helps me process through the no's.
For example, I once had an audition in Atlanta. So, I set out on an all-night 9-hour journey in order to get there. And when I arrived at the gate there was some sort of mix-up regarding the casting and It just so happened that my name was not on the list. Consequently, they were unwilling to give me the opportunity to audition.
Needless to say, I was devastated! I could not believe I drove all that way to get to Atlanta and not get an audition! I cried. And why I was literally crying my eyes out I felt like I heard God say to me, “If I wanted you there, The director could not stop you. He told me to go and do what He told me to do, so I left.
When I got back home, I wrote my one-woman show, “Evolution a Black Girl, From the Playhouse to the White House”. I had no idea that this was the play that would change my life. This was bigger than any part I could have ever played in.
This is why I have the confidence in knowing that what God has for me, is for me. My job is to show up, do my best, and the rest is up to Him.
Have you ever felt like you were a little girl and a big girl's world when you Found yourself on a bigger platform in the entertainment industry?
First and foremost, I would say, keep walking. Don't get stuck in your head. You have to realize that if you made it to the place where you are, then you're supposed to be there. There had to have been a standout quality that you possessed that attracted the attention of someone of great notability. This is why they were completely comfortable in placing you in that position.
I have two suggestions. One is fake it until you make it. Even if you feel like you don't belong there, just pretend that you do. Regardless of your acting abilities or lack thereof, just continue to move forward! Fake it until you make it! Secondly, you’re not alone. There are people who feel just like you. I've even witnessed people who have been in the industry for many years still struggle with insecurities. One thing about creative people is that we want the public to enjoy our creative works. We want them to like what we do. But, just knowing that you're not alone, helps. And last, be true to yourself. You don't have to pretend to be like anybody else be you and be great! Do your part and be prepared. That's the key.
Whenever I'm speaking at a college, I frequently use this quote, “luck is preparation meets opportunity”. So, be prepared! This way, when a door of opportunity becomes available, you'll be well prepared to go for it!
When you find yourself feeling like a little girl and a big man’s world, just know that there are other little girls and boys that feel the same way you do. Just continue to be you. And believe me, I understand the feeling because I felt that way at times. I even felt that way when I worked on the “Harriet” set. Although I've worked on lots of film projects, “Harriet” was the biggest budget movie that I've ever been cast in. I know, I've always wanted to do this, but when I got there, extremely apprehensive and nervous. But, as I observed the other cast members, I realized that they weren’t any different from me. We were all the same. we were all trying to figure it out. One thing I've learned about this industry is that people want the final project to be successful. Nobody wants anybody to fail, they want you to succeed.
Let's talk about your experience regarding race and gender in the entertainment industry?
Yes, especially if you're a woman. And, if you’re a black woman will always have to work harder. And I believe that's regardless of what industry you're in. That’s unfortunate, but that's the reality. This is one of the reasons why I take great pride in being a black woman and love my sisters so much! We have to fight for everything we have. We have to give it all just to become successful. I've seen time and time again how black women have to rise to the occasion to do what we have to do. I’ve personally experienced racism and sexism. But I always believed that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I tried to look at these situations as positive because I believe that Whatever is meant for bad in my life can be turned around for my good. I utilized those experiences to create, build, and open doors for the next person. If we dwell on the challenges, then we're not focusing on the solutions to those challenges.
When it comes to my faith, I don't believe that I did not get an opportunity because of who I believe in. However, because of my faith, there were roles that I didn't take. I've never experienced a time where someone said that they didn't want me on set because of my faith. I believe if you really love God, you will love people, so that is what I do. I love God and I love people. I'm not the type of person that takes pleasure in condemning people. I feel like God is a gentleman and he lets everyone make their own decisions. I'm not going to force my beliefs on anybody.
Now, if someone had felt that way, it's possible that they could have discussed that in a separate room but it's nothing that I'm aware of. I deem myself to being easygoing and positive. I focus on showing God's love and his light wherever I go. For some people, it's like a breath of fresh air and for others, it may be a bit uncomfortable. I cannot confirm that I was denied a role specifically because I was a believer.
Most of the challenges that I’ve encountered as producer and director have been because of my race and gender. I have to be firm indecisive. There are times when I have to pull rank and let them know that this is my set, and this is the way I need this to play out. I don't allow anyone to disrespect me or force me to back down because I'm a woman or a black woman. I stand firm and let them know who I am. Sometimes they think that I don't know what I'm doing. But I do know what I'm doing, and I know what I deserve and how I deserve to be treated. So, I stand firm and that belief.
Have you been challenged to compromise your faith because of something you really wanted to do?
I've always had boundaries and have always been pretty consistent in sticking with those values across the board. I believe, whether you’re in the industry or not, you should have boundaries. Personal and professional. Whenever I get the opportunity to converse with parents of children who are aspiring actors, I stress the importance of having that conversation with their children early on. I suggest that they have a conversation with their children about what they are comfortable and uncomfortable with doing in this entertainment industry.
Regarding myself, I'm a lot more restrictive than I was when I first started in this business. Not only have I grown as a person but, I'm now a married woman. whenever I take a role, I think about what kind of impact will this make and how will this role affect my future children and grandchildren. How will they view me in the roles that I take? Will they be proud or ashamed of me and my participation and that project? And what's so interesting about the music and movie industry is that when you die, your legacy lives on. That includes the film roles you take and the music you make. I don't want to live the type of legacy that my future they will be ashamed of. I believe that the media is either dictating to a culture or reflecting a culture. How I determine whether or not a project is right for me, is that I first get an understanding of what they are teaching and the images they are portraying. I believe you're always learning something. Even if it's not an educational film you're promoting something. Is this something that lines up with my world views? For me, I have to determine that on a case-by-case basis. After combing through any project, I carefully consider whether this project is something that I can really sink my teeth into or not. I also ask myself if this project makes me feel uncomfortable and then take it from there.
How has COVID-19 inspired positive change in your life?
I'm so glad you asked that question. Before COVID-19, I was so busy doing what I was doing. My calendar was full of show tours. They were literally nonstop. I didn't have much time to do a lot of other things because I was pretty much concerned with what I was doing. I was completely comfortable in the life that I was living in. I was thoroughly satisfied with the type of work I did, and the pay was excellent! For me, all was well. So, because I was so satisfied and comfortable with the Journey that I was on, I had very little time for anything else.
Because of the pandemic, it has given me the gift of time. And this time has given me the ability to pursue my other dreams and giftings such as scriptwriting. I wrote several scripts and participated in two new film projects during COVID. Not only that, but I have also been commissioned by various museums, organizations, and production companies to write for their projects. I was even asked to direct a project for a mansion here and Richmond Virginia regarding the history of domestic service workers. I've even participated in collaborative work with people that I've wanted to work with and connect with, but just didn't know-how. God is so good because He literally brought these opportunities to my door. I just did a lot of things that I would not have done had it not been this season COVID. I would not have had time for any of these things because my schedule was completely booked. Is just been a wonderful time for introspection, creative writing, reading, and rest.
Because I wasn't getting the proper rest, I don't know how sustainable my life really was. I don't know if I would have just crashed because of how busy things were at that time. But I thank God then now he has placed me in a position where I can take more time for myself. Also, during this time, I was able to reconnect with friends that I had not connected with for some time. I was able to zoom with them virtually and it's been really rewarding. Yes, I would have to say, that there has been a lot of great things that have happened for me during this time.
Any closing words you would like to share?
You were born an original so don’t die a copy. There is something you have that the world needs, so don’t try to replicate what someone else has or is...be you and be great!
Contact Morgan https://www.imdb.com/name/nm3536266/