Actress Mishael (pronounced Mishell) Morgan may have left TT to live abroad when she was just five, but her ties to the country of her birth remain strong.
And it’s not just because she has relatives scattered all across the island.
Morgan, who plays the role of Amanda Sinclair on the CBS daytime soap opera The Young and the Restless, told WMN during a Zoom interview that her decision to set aside her plan to be a lawyer took place in a hospital bed in TT over a decade ago after a tragic accident.
“It’s like I was born in Trinidad and reborn in Trinidad.
"I went back to TT when I was 19 and broke my neck in a car accident.
"We were visiting for Christmas and my sister and I went out with my cousin. My cousin was driving and we had been out all day and I fell asleep in the back seat because I was so exhausted.
"When I woke up I was in the hospital with my neck broken.”
During a long stay in hospital, a lot of it spent lying just staring at the ceiling, Morgan said she started to re-evaluate her life.
“I had wanted to be an attorney my whole life, but I just felt that it was also just my parents’ path too because I always had this hidden love for acting, and I realised I would regret not doing it if I really was paralysed. I talked to God and what I said is, ‘If you give me another chance and I get to walk again, the one thing I’ll do is try,’ because I literally heard a voice that said, ‘You never try.’”
After successful surgery, Morgan returned home to Canada and kept her promise to “try” by taking roles in episodic and feature films. Eventually she was offered a role in the popular CBS soap opera, packed her bags and left Canada for Los Angeles.
She has been with the show for eight years.
“I left the show when my character, Hilary (Curtis), had been killed off. Less than a year later they called me and begged me to come back...I wasn’t sure how they were going to bring me back, because my character had died in the arms of the love of her life. Now, I play her twin sister, Amanda,” who as fate would have it, is an on-screen criminal lawyer.
“So my dream did come true. I’m a lawyer – but this way it’s more fun because I don’t have to worry about the consequences of losing a case or doing all that paperwork. I just have to act like I know what I’m doing,” she said with a laugh.
Her two characters, she said, may be twins, but they have totally opposite personalities. Amanda is driven, has high scruples, knows what she wants and just started her own practice. Hilary was unscrupulous and did whatever was necessary to get what she wanted.
“Hilary was more Jack Abbott’s friend and Amanda befriended Victor Newman,” which highlighted the side each twin chose in the decades-long Abbott/Newman feud.
But, Morgan said with a mischievous grin, the two characters apparently have the same taste in men.
“Amanda is falling in love with her sister’s husband, Devon Hamilton.”
But while her on-screen characters are as glamorous as soap opera stars come, Morgan told WMN the off-screen Mishael Morgan is a completely different, down-to-earth and very easy-going person.
“You know, soap operas are the beautiful medium. Everyone just wakes up with hair and makeup intact. I drive into the set with my hair in a bun and they have to curl and fix it…I use press-on nails, pop my eyelashes in and I’m a different person. It’s like a costume because in everyday life I don’t wear makeup and I wear my hair natural…I’m so low-maintenance in that respect.”
She said working on The Young and Restless is a dream job, but for her it is more than a job. It is also a medium through which she gets to hone her craft and bridge a generational gap.
“Soaps had been part of my whole life and I respect the genre, and I felt it is a great way to connect with people of different ages and different generations. I watched it as a child and it was at the background of my life, and now it’s the forefront.”
She said the fact that she used to watch characters like Victor Newman, Jack Abbott, Victoria Newman and Nikki Newman on TV and now she gets to interact with them and be a part of the daytime drama that has unfolded for 48 years sometimes feels surreal. And, she said, it took some time for her to accept her natural talent.
“Because I’m big on academia, when I just started acting I felt like a fraud, because I had not gone through any formal training to become an actress,” which may also be one of the reasons why she chose soaps.
“They are bootcamps for actors, and so many amazing actors have come out of them. I looked at as an opportunity to become the artist I want to be.”
From there, she said, she sees herself moving on to other creative projects, and is writing her own screenplay. Producing and directing may also become her reality. But, she said, there will always be acting, and while law is not completely off the table, it will never be at the forefront.
“The way I see it, I can always go back to law at another point in my life. But for now, I appreciate being an actor and being in this industry that impacts the world.
"I look at law in a different way now, as something that could work in co-operation with what I’m doing now as an artist – maybe helping with contracts and negotiations.
"But acting and storytelling will always be part of my life.”
Morgan comes from a large family: her maternal grandmother was from Moruga and had 18 children. She was born and lived in San Fernando until she migrated.
“I’m a south gyal,” she told WMN in perfect Trini accent. Family, she said, is always at the top of her list of priorities.
“I just love spending time with my husband and two kids, trying to be the best mom and wife possible. Teaching my children how to follow their dreams.”
She said while many people found it difficult having to stay at home in the early days of the covid19 pandemic, for her it was like a little bit of heaven.
“Personally, I actually appreciated the chance to do nothing and be with my kids and family, because I’m a homebody. We cooked, painted, watched movies, played in the backyard. It made us stronger as a family unit. It put life into perspective for me and I’m sure a lot of people as well.”
And once she believes it is safe for her and her family to travel again, the first stop on her list of places to visit is TT.
“Within the first half-hour after landing I must have doubles, somewhere off the side of the highway where one of my cousins takes me whenever I visit…I have so much family there that by the time I visit each of them at their home, I would have covered all of Trinidad…And I also want to take a trip to Tobago, because I remember how beautiful it was there. I really do have fond memories of TT.”