On June 24, The Young and the Restless (Y&R) star, TT-born Mishael (pronounced Mishell) Morgan became the first black actor to win a lead category at the 49th Annual Daytime Emmys Awards in Pasadena, California. The 35-year-old won the award for outstanding lead actress, beating four other nominees – an accomplishment she believes ties her to another history-making black TT woman.
“It’s funny, because when I was a kid my dad always used to talk about (Janelle) Penny Commissiong and how she was one of the most beautiful women in the world, and she was the first black woman or woman of colour to win the Miss Universe title back in 1977 as Miss Trinidad and Tobago. That was 45 years ago, and I just feel in a weird way that I’m walking in her footstep, which is cool,” Morgan told WMN in a Zoom interview.
Morgan, who plays Amanda Sinclair on the CBS soap opera, said winning the prestigious award was a long time coming and she was honoured to be able to, like Commissiong did for pageantry, open the door so that in the future people of colour and all walks of life can feel they have a chance to reach high levels in the entertainment industry.
“Going up there and accepting that award, I just kept thinking about my dad and how proud he was of her (Commissiong), and I can only imagine how proud he is of me, even though he is not here any more. I felt like he was there with me accepting the award.”
Although she has not lived in TT for three decades, her bond to the country of her birth and her familial ties remains strong. She comes from a large family: her maternal grandmother was from Moruga and had 18 children. Morgan was born and lived in San Fernando until her family migrated to Canada when she was five years old. Her grandmother, Maria "Shooney" Forgenie died on July 23 at the age of 96.
During her acceptance speech Morgan said, “I was born on a tiny island, Trinidad and Tobago, in the Caribbean, and now I’m standing on an international stage and I am being honoured regardless of the colour of my skin, regardless of my passport, for being the best at what I do. Now there are little girls around the world and no matter what the industry, the vocation, they can strive to be the best."
Morgan first joined the soap as Hilary Curtis in 2013 and stayed until her character was killed off in 2018. She returned in 2019 as attorney Amanda Sinclair, Curtis’ twin sister.
She said in the hours leading up to the award show she was really nervous, and it was not because she lacked confidence in her ability as an actress.
“I had prepared a speech in a way where I bullet pointed everyone I wanted to thank, and the other half of the speech, which is what that moment meant to me, I wasn’t really sure how it was going to come out…But I’m happy that I went up there with an idea of what I wanted to say and I spoke from the heart and allowed God to shine through me.”
But the mother of two said while she continues to work with The Young and the Restless, she plans to capitalise on her Emmy win and spread her wings in the industry. She sees many opportunities on the horizon and has many stories to tell.
“I believe as an actress I’m a storyteller, and I want to tell as many stories as possible. I’ve decided that it’s time to start considering what I want to do behind the camera now so that I can wear multiple hats and I can stay a part of this industry no matter what – whether it’s in front of or behind the camera, writing or producing. I just know that I want to do more than acting. I want to enjoy all aspects of the story telling medium.”
She said she has been working on screenplays and a pilot with interesting ways of addressing troubling issues.
“So it’s like a TV show. It’s going to be drama, but one that speaks to racial issues and then there’s one that touches on wider issues like climate change – things that people should have at the forefront of their minds, like saving the planet and protecting our future.”
But no matter where her career takes her, Morgan said TT will always hold a special place in her heart. She said right now she and her cousins in TT are trying to work out travel plans and hopefully she will be visiting in a few weeks.
“It’s Trinidad and Tobago all the way!” Morgan said.