(AllHipHop Features) “Fist Fight” marks an important milestone for Morgan as it is his first feature film acting job after his highly publicized multi car crash in 2014. The accident, which was a head-on collision with a Walmart truck, resulted in the death of Morgan’s friend and fellow comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair and Morgan himself being in a coma. Now back from those critical injuries, Morgan describes his experience on “Fist Fight” and what it means to rediscover his comedic career:
AllHipHop.com: For decades you have been known for your ability to be uniquely funny and a veritable master of Ad Lib. “Fist Fight” director Richie Keen said that he was mad at himself for calling cut too soon after your first take in “Fist Fight.” He says that he never made the mistake again for the remainder of your scenes. Do you remember what that fateful Ad Lib was that he so regretted missing that first day?
Tracy Morgan: No I don’t remember. That was a long time ago. But that’s the way that I’ve always been, you know as far as improv, visual and observational stuff. It just comes to me. It’s my comedic instincts.
AllHipHop.com: Your accident involved neurological damage due to the head trauma suffered. Has that damage and/or your recovery from it significantly affected or changed your process when it comes to your comedy and acting?
Tracy Morgan: No. I mean I continue with the same process. I just feel like maybe I am aware more. Maybe I am more observational. The things that I’m saying, I think that my timing is sharper now.
AllHipHop.com: Really? In what way? Can you elaborate?
Tracy Morgan: As far as my comedic timing?
Tracy Morgan: You’ve seen that today.
AllHipHop.com: Yes, but you noticing it as a comedian might be considerably different from what I or someone else might notice as someone who simply enjoys comedy. Also, you would be the best observer as the person who has actually gone through that change.
Tracy Morgan: I mean, that’s a personal thing. I couldn’t even explain it to you because it’s such a gift that I can’t explain it to you. I can only tell as far as a stand up comedian, a comedian’s point of view, I think my timing is sharper. Maybe because of the therapy and the cognitive (therapy) it made me sharper.
AllHipHop.com: What sort of cognitive therapy did you require? Are you still doing it?
Tracy Morgan: A year. I did a year of cognitive therapy. I still do physical therapy but as far as – I still see my psychiatrist from time to time because when you take a bump in the head like that you never know. So I stay on top of it. I stay on top of all of those things.
AllHipHop.com: You’ve talked about how daunting your first scene was in “Fist Fight” seeing as it was the first acting scene you’d ever filmed since your accident. Was there anything that you did to try and prepare yourself for that first day?
Tracy Morgan: Well, I hadn’t been in front of a camera. I hadn’t been part of a cast. Actually that was my first time and Richard Keen allowed me to do that. So you never know until you’re in the mix. So I got in the mix. After a few takes I said, “OK,” and I came through and I relaxed. And it was like, OK, it’s still there.
AllHipHop.com: With the standup that you’ve already done – because you have performed standup since your accident prior to your involvement in “Fist Fight,” was that practice a viable form of preparation for you on this movie and beyond in film?
Tracy Morgan: Yeah, but it’s a different muscle. It’s a different muscle being stretched in doing stand up.
AllHipHop.com: Can you quantify that and explain?
Tracy Morgan: When I do stand up it’s just me. It’s just me. It’s my personal life, my story – it’s me. But when you are in a scene with someone it’s energy being passed back and forth. That’s what acting is. Acting is listening and energy. So I was able to keep up with everybody and listen because it was such a serious accident.
AllHipHop.com: So you were worried that you wouldn’t be able to bounce off of other people?
Tracy Morgan: Yeah, but I said that when I first did Matt Lauer – those were one of my worries after the accident. I didn’t know how I was going to get back to funny because it was such a traumatic thing in my life. And it scared the shit out of me because I faced death. I look at my wife and my daughter I couldn’t imagine more without them. I couldn’t imagine them with me gone and what they were going to be doing. Once I got over that, months passed by and I got over that. I was able to focus on me because in life there are things that are much more important than show business when it’s life and death. So I had to pick up the pieces and that’s what my tour was about. It was called “Picking Up The Pieces.” And then I did a special that will be out May 16thcalled “Staying Alive.” Because that was all the things that I was doing. Part of that therapy was “Fist Fight.”
AllHipHop.com: I’ve heard that you have a new project that you are planning to do with Jordan Peele.
Tracy Morgan: Yeah that’s going that’s coming along great. We probably going to shoot early May.
AllHipHop.com: Can you tell me anything about it?
Tracy Morgan: No – I don’t want to jinx it. I’d rather not. (“Fist Fight”) is in the can, so I don’t mind talking about it. I’ve always been like that. I’ve always been like that. I don’t like to talk about nothing that’s not there.
AllHipHop.com: How did you meet Peele?
Tracy Morgan: When I was home for a year and a half in my wheelchair, I would watch “Key & Peele” every day. And then one day after about six or seven months I told my agent I want to work with him. I want to be a part of that comedy. So then I came, I flew out here and I met him. We just started talking.
AllHipHop.com: How did that meeting go?
Tracy Morgan: It went great. Yeah it was funny. It was Jordan Peele and Tracy Morgan and we started talking. He told me I was an inspiration to him when he used to see me at the Uptown Comedy Club and all of that and we have the same sensibilities. So we gonna try to – no we WILL put out a project that’s gonna make your head turn.
AllHipHop.com: I can’t wait to see that. With “Fist Fight,” you were afraid at the start that you might not be able to keep up with bouncing off of the other actors. Is there a scene in “Fist Fight” that you can point to where the light bulb came on and you really felt like you were out of the woods and had hit your stride? Something akin to what you view as your best scene?
Tracy Morgan: No, I don’t feel that way. I just, I felt well… I felt good when I did the thing on the football field.
AllHipHop.com: Which bit on the football field? You had more than one.
Tracy Morgan: When they painted the penis around me and all those things and I started yelling at the students. That’s when I knew I was in character. That was Coach Crawford.
AllHipHop.com: So that would be your favorite scene in your view?
Tracy Morgan: I don’t have a favorite scene. I love the movie. I don’t have a favorite scene. The movie is my masterpiece. Me just getting off doesn’t make it a masterpiece. I mean, I was just funny in the scene. But when it’s a great movie, that’s a masterpiece.
AllHipHop.com: Why did you choose “Fist Fight” as your first movie back? What made it stand out for you?
Tracy Morgan: I didn’t choose it. It chose me. Would you give somebody a chance that just got hit by a Wallmart truck? So I was gracious that Richard Keen believed in me. He chose me. I was basically just come out of a coma. For somebody to say, “yo, I want you in my movie,” that don’t happen. So I’m gracious to Mr. Keen.
AllHipHop.com: So has that resulted in a special bond between yourself and Mr. Keen beyond the movie itself?
Tracy Morgan: Of course it is. He’s the first director to direct somebody out of a coma. He doesn’t realize that. He directed somebody that got hit by a Wallmart truck.
AllHipHop.com: Have you told him that – how important he is to you because of that fact?
Tracy Morgan: No.
AllHipHop.com: Will you tell him?
Tracy Morgan: No. He’ll read it. He has to understand that. He directed someone who was badly injured.
AllHipHop.com: Do you see yourself doing more serious stuff in the future as a result of new perspective that you’ve gained since your accident?
Tracy Morgan: I wouldn’t mind. I wouldn’t mind. That would be another muscle to stretch. When I look at Eddie Murphy in “Mr. Church,” of course. He’s one of my comedic heroes. But now we see Eddie in a different capacity. We see him show chops. Think of the tears.
AllHipHop.com: So what’s your ideal next project that you would like to do?
Tracy Morgan: I don’t know. I don’t want to call it. I might spoil it. God got a plan. I’m going to leave it like that. It’s in his hands.
AllHipHop.com: On the set of “Fist Fight” you made a point of having a lot of heart to heart conversations with the many young actors on the set. What was behind that for you?
Tracy Morgan: I try to be an inspiration to them. Like Martin Lawrence was to me when I was young in the game. Martin Lawrence was an inspiration to me – still is – and I just try to give it back to the youth because they are the next generation.
AllHipHop.com: Is that something that is different since your accident or just what you’ve always done?
Tracy Morgan: No that’s the way that I’ve always been. I was always the type of dude to coach little league. I love being involved. When I was young, I was a coach.
AllHipHop.com: You were a coach?
Tracy Morgan: When I was young I was coaching. Little kids wanted to play football, they got a football suit for Christmas, put a t-shirt over some shoulder pads. I wasn’t just playing. It was running around the field jogging them. I had them doing jumping jacks, coached. Now it’s just like love. You can’t do nothing with it but pass it on.
AllHipHop.com: Is there something specific that you would like to say to young comics out there starting in the game or young people period that might be going through something difficult?
Tracy Morgan: Keep on trucking. Whatever decision you make in your life from this point on, base it on your family. When you do that it’s always the right decision. What would my parents think of me if I did this? What would my brother or sister think of me if I did this? No thank you. Keep it moving.
AllHipHop.com: How do you feel about the current political climate?
Tracy Morgan: I don’t feel. I’m down with the King. I’m down with the King.
AllHipHop.com: I’m sorry – what do you mean by that?
Tracy Morgan: I’m down with the King, baby (indicates a necklace he is wearing with Jesus on it).
AllHipHop.com: I got you. Okay.
Tracy Morgan: No. I don’t believe. I know. The King. You can have your president, your congress and all that other crap. When your room is ready, your room is ready. I know. I faced death. I was in a coma for ten days on the other side. I love you-just because. And when you down with the King, that’s it. Politics to me is a pile of tricks.
AllHipHop.com: Is there anything that you remember from when you were on the other side?
Tracy Morgan: You don’t want to remember. I don’t remember getting hit. I don’t remember none of that.
AllHipHop.com: But you talk about how you have experienced death. So what was that experience?
Tracy Morgan: Yeah of course. You know, I was in a coma for ten days. You’re knocking on the door.
AllHipHop.com: What was going on then when you were knocking?
Tracy Morgan: I don’t know. That’s none of my business. It was swollen. I remember visions of being in and out of the coma. They had me highly sedated. Because my femur was in little pieces. I remember one time, I think I was in a coma, I don’t know, being at a party.
AllHipHop.com: A party?
Tracy Morgan: Richard Pryor was there and Jackie Gleason was there and Lucille Ball was there and my father was there. And then God came and said it’s time to go back. I looked at Richard and I was crying. He winked at me and said, “stay funny.”
Tracy Morgan: I’m down with The King. I remember one time my psychiatrist telling me the two biggest car crashes in the world ever was yours and Princess Diana’s.
“Fist Fight,” starring Ice Cube, Charlie Day, Tracy Morgan and Jillian Bell opens in theatres nationwide on February 17, 2017.