David Morse (actor)

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David Morse
David Morse headshot.jpg
David Morse in 2008
BornDavid Bowditch Morse
(1953-10-11) October 11, 1953 (age 60)
Beverly, Massachusetts,
United States
OccupationActor, singer, television director and writer
Years active1980–present
Spouse(s)Susan Wheeler Duff (1982–present)
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David Morse
David Morse headshot.jpg
David Morse in 2008
BornDavid Bowditch Morse
(1953-10-11) October 11, 1953 (age 60)
Beverly, Massachusetts,
United States
OccupationActor, singer, television director and writer
Years active1980–present
Spouse(s)Susan Wheeler Duff (1982–present)

David Bowditch Morse[1][2] (born October 11, 1953) is an American stage, television, and film actor. He first came to national attention as Dr. Jack Morrison in the medical drama St. Elsewhere from 1982 to 1988. Morse continued his movie career with roles in Dancer in the Dark, The Indian Runner, The Negotiator, Contact, The Green Mile, Disturbia, The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Crossing Guard, The Rock, Extreme Measures, 12 Monkeys, 16 Blocks, and Hounddog.

In 2006, Morse had a recurring role as Detective Michael Tritter on the medical drama House for which he received an Emmy Award nomination. Morse portrayed George Washington in the 2008 HBO Miniseries John Adams, which garnered him a second Emmy nomination. Morse has received acclaim for his portrayal of Uncle Peck on the Off-Broadway play How I Learned to Drive for which he earned a Drama Desk and Obie Award. He also had success on Broadway, portraying James "Sharky" Harkin in The Seafarer. As of 2011, Morse is a regular on the HBO series, Treme, where he plays an honest police officer in a corrupt New Orleans police department.

Early life[edit]

Morse was born in Beverly, Massachusetts and raised in nearby Hamilton, Massachusetts, the son of Jacquelyn, a school teacher, and Charles Morse, a sales manager.[3] He has three younger siblings.[4] His middle name, Bowditch, comes from mathematician Nathaniel Bowditch.[1]


Morse studied acting at the William Esper Studio.[5] He began his acting career in the theatre as a player for the Boston Repertory Theatre in the early 1970s.[4] He spent some time in New York's theatre community in the early 1980s before moving into television and film.[4] During that time, Morse was listed as one of the twelve most "Promising New Actors of 1980" in John Willis' Screen World, Vol. 32.[6] Morse's big break came in 1982 when he was cast in the television medical drama St. Elsewhere. Morse played Dr. Jack "Boomer" Morrison, a young physician who is forced to deal with the death of his wife and the struggles of a single parent professional.[7]

Morse appeared in a number of supporting roles following the finale of "St. Elsewhere" in 1988. The actor is quoted as saying "I [...] made the decision [that] I didn't care if there was any money in the role or not. I had to find roles that were different from what I had been doing".[8] His turn in "Desperate Hours" as antagonist showed a darker Morse.[8] Morse later starred in The Indian Runner and The Crossing Guard, written and directed by then novice auteur and writer Sean Penn. So far, Morse has appeared in three adaptations of Stephen King stories: The Langoliers, Hearts in Atlantis, and The Green Mile. Additionally Morse was a guest star on Homicide: Life on the Street, playing the racist cousin of Detective Tim Bayliss (Kyle Secor).[9]

In 2002, Morse starred as Mike Olshansky, an ex-Philadelphia police officer turned cab driver, in the television movie Hack. The movie was so well received that a television series was created (also with the title Hack), which ran from 2002 to 2004. For his role in the 2002 crime-drama film Shuang Tong, Morse was nominated as "Best Supporting Actor" in the Golden Horse Awards, the first nomination ever for an English-speaking actor. His most recent big-screen appearance was as questionable neighbor Mr. Turner in the 2007 release Disturbia. In a review of this film, film critic and commentator John Podhoretz wrote that Morse is a "largely unsung character actor who enlivens and deepens every movie fortunate enough to have him in the cast".[10]

Morse in 2005.

In 2006, Morse received a phone call from David Shore, whom he had previously worked with on Hack, who asked him if he would be interested in having a guest role on House. When Morse watched the show, he could not understand why people watched the show, because, in his words, "This House guy is a total jerk". But when he told some of his friends, their excited reactions convinced Morse to take the part.[11] Morse portrayed Michael Tritter, a detective with a vendetta against Gregory House. Morse earned his first Emmy Award nomination for his work on the series.[12]

In 2008, Morse portrayed George Washington in the HBO mini-series John Adams, for which his nose was made bigger. Morse commented: "The first thing that comes to mind is my nose; it was my big idea to do that nose. We didn't have a lot of time, because they asked me to do this about three weeks before they started shooting, and I just kept looking at these portraits and thinking 'This man's face is so commanding', and I did not feel that my face was very commanding in the way his was. So I convinced them that we should try the nose, and we tried it on, and everybody went, 'Wow, that's Washington'."[11] Morse's portrayal earned him his second Emmy Award nomination. He is currently "reprising" the role of George Washington, in voice only, as part of the The Hall of Presidents show in the Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Morse stated that out of all of the films he has done, his favorites are The Green Mile,[13] The Crossing Guard, and The Indian Runner.[11]

In 2010, Morse guest starred in two episodes of the HBO drama series, Treme, as Lt. Terry Colson of the New Orleans Police Department. Morse was promoted to series regular starting with season two of the show, which began in April 2011.

In 2011, Morse won the best actor award at Karlovy Vary IFF for his role in Collaborator.[14]

Morse played an ex-CIA agent in the film World War Z (2013).


In addition to his film and television career, Morse has continued to appear on stage. For his performance in the 1997 Off-Broadway production of Paula Vogel's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama How I Learned to Drive, he received an Obie Award, a Drama League Award, a Drama Desk Award, and a Lucille Lortel Award. That same year Morse played Father Barry in the play adaptation of On the Waterfront along with James Gandolfini and Penelope Ann Miller. The play only ran for a week, with just eight performances.[15] From 2007 to 2008, Morse appeared on Broadway in Conor McPherson's The Seafarer.[16][17]

Personal life[edit]

Morse has been married since 1982 to actress and author Susan Wheeler Duff Morse. Susan Morse published a memoir, The Habit, in 2011. They have three children: one daughter and twin sons.[4] In 1994, Morse moved to Philadelphia with his family after the 1994 Northridge earthquake.[8][13]


Film work[edit]

1980Inside MovesJerry Maxwell
1981Our Family BusinessPhilTV movie
1982Max Dugan ReturnsShoe Store Cop
1983PrototypeMichaelTV movie
1984Shattered VowsFather TimTV movie
1985When Dreams Come TrueRobert WyntonTV movie
1987Place at the TableTV movie
Personal FoulBen
Six Against the RockMarvin HubbardTV movie
Downpayment on MurderDet. JacksonTV movie
1988WinnieThomasTV movie
1989Cross of FireKlell HenryTV movie
1990Desperate HoursAlbert
1991Cry in the Wild: The Taking of Peggy AnnBicycle PeteTV movie
The Indian RunnerJoe Roberts
1992Dead Ahead: The Exxon Valdez DisasterRick SteinerTV movie
1993Miracle on Interstate 880Dr. Jim BettsTV movie
The Good SonJack Evans
1994The GetawayJim 'Deer' Jackson
Magic Kid IIJack
1995The Taming Power of the Small
The LangoliersCaptain Brian EngleTV movie
Tecumseh: The Last WarriorGallowayTV movie
The Crossing GuardJohn BoothNominated—Best Supporting Male at the Independent Spirit Awards
12 MonkeysDr. Peters
1996The RockMajor Tom Baxter
Extreme MeasuresFBI Agent Frank Hare
The Long Kiss GoodnightLuke/Daedalus
1997George BGeorge
Murder Live!Frank McGrathTV movie
ContactTed Arroway
1998The Legend of Pig Eye
The NegotiatorAdam Beck
1999Crazy in AlabamaDove Bullis
The Green MileBrutus 'Brutal' HowellNominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
2000BaitEdgar Clenteen
Dancer in the DarkBill HoustonPerformed the song 'Smith & Wesson' in the film.
Proof of LifePeter Bowman
2001Diary of a City PriestFather John McNamee
Hearts in AtlantisBobby Garfield (Adult)
2002The Slaughter RuleGideon 'Gid' Ferguson
Double VisionKevin RichterNominated—Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Horse Film Festival
2005Down in the ValleyWade
Nearing GraceShep Nearing
Dreamer: Inspired by a True StoryPalmer
2006A.W.O.L. (short)Major Cliff Marquette
16 BlocksDet. Frank Nugent
DisturbiaRobert Turner
2009The Hurt LockerColonel ReedGotham Independent Film Award for Best Ensemble Cast
WAFCA Award for Best Ensemble
2010Mother and ChildTom
ShanghaiRichard Astor
Mint JulepKarl
The Pond (short)Adam 11
2011Drive AngryWebster
Winter in the BloodAirplane Man
CollaboratorGus WilliamsKarlovy Vary International Film Festival Award for Best Actor[14]
Nominated—Best Actor in a Leading Role at the Canadian Screen Awards
2012The Odd Life of Timothy GreenJames "Big Jim" Green Sr.
2013McCanickEugene 'Mack' McCanickProducer
World War ZEx-CIA Agent

Television work[edit]

1981NurseKevin MalloryEpisode: 'Equal Opportunity'
1982–1988St. ElsewhereDr. Jack Morrison137 Episodes
Directed the Episodes:
'A Coupla White Dummies Sitting Around Talking'
1987Friday the 13thDirector/WriterEpisode: 'A Friend to the End'
1989Brotherhood of the RoseChris/RemusTV Movie
Midnight CallerChandlerEpisode: 'Wait Until Midnight'
1992The Hat SquadEpisode: 'Frankie Stein'
Tales from the CryptTom McMurdoEpisode: 'Showdown'
Reasonable DoubtsEdward DurrellEpisode: 'Moment of Doubt'
1993Big Wave Dave'sDave Bell6 Episodes:
'The Adventures of Ozzie and Marshall'
'Dave's Big Wave'
'Making Up Is Hard to Do'
'The Six Stages of Marshall'
SeaQuest DSVLenny SutterEpisode: 'SeaWest'
1995Homicide: Life on the StreetJim BaylissEpisode: 'Colors'
Action ManVoices
The New Adventures of MadelinePepitoVoice
1998Stories from My ChildhoodVoices2 Episodes:
'The Snow Queen'
'The Wild Swans'
2001American Experience:
Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided
Abraham Lincoln6 Part Miniseries: Voice
2002–2004HackMike Olshansky40 Episodes:
Wrote the episode 'Gone'
2006–2007HouseDet. Michael Tritter6 Episodes:
'Fools for Love'
'Que Será Será'
'Son of Coma Guy'
'Finding Judas'
'Merry Little Christmas'
'Words and Deeds'
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
2008John AdamsGeorge WashingtonMiniseries-4 Episodes:
'Unnecessary War'
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated— Monte-Carlo Television Festival for Outstanding Actor in a Mini Series
2009MediumDouglas Lydecker3 Episodes
Empire StateJames Cochrane1 Episode: 'Pilot'
2010–PresentTremeNOPD Lieutenant Terry Colson24 Episodes
2011Lights OutJerry 'The Rainmaker' Raines1 Episode
2012Victory in Defeat
Douglas MacArthurJapanese TV Miniseries
Robot ChickenRobin Hood/The Lorax1 Episode
'Butchered in Burbank" Voices



On the WaterfrontFather BarryMay 1, 1995 – May 7, 1995
The SeafarerJames "Sharky" HarkinDecember 6, 2007 – March 30, 2008


ThreadsNubOctober 25, 1981 – November 22, 1981Circle Theatre
How I Learned to DriveUncle PeckMay 6, 1997 – April 19, 1998Century Center for the Performing ArtsLucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Actor
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor
Obie Award for Best Performance
Nominated—Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actor
The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom DurninTom DurninMay 31, 2013 – August 25, 2013Laura Pels Theatre


  1. ^ a b Patricia, Sheridan (June 23, 2008). "Patricia Sheridan's Breakfast With ... David Morse". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved November 15, 2009. 
  2. ^ "People Search: MORSE, DAVID born 10/11/1953". Veromi. Retrieved October 27, 2009. 
  3. ^ "David Morse Biography (1953–)". Filmreference. Retrieved July 25, 2008. 
  4. ^ a b c d "David Morse Biography". Unofficial David Morse website. Retrieved August 14, 2008. 
  5. ^ "William Esper Studio for Acting". Retrieved August 14, 2008. 
  6. ^ Willis, John (1982). Screen World 1981. Screen World 32. Crown. ISBN 978-0-584-97079-1. 
  7. ^ Thompson, Robert J. "St. Elsewhere". The Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved July 26, 2008. 
  8. ^ a b c Byrne, Bridget (November 8, 2006). "David Morse a 'House' Cop With a Problem". Associated Press. Retrieved August 15, 2008. 
  9. ^ Fontana, Tom; Attanasio, Paul; Mark, Bonnie (1995-04-28). "Colors". Homicide: Life on the Street. Season 3. Episode 19. NBC.
  10. ^ Podhoretz, John (April 30, 2007). "Hitchcock Lite; Entertaining, yes, but Shia LaBeouf is no James Stewart". review on Disturbia (The Weekly Standard). pp. 46–47. 
  11. ^ a b c Murray, Noel. "Random Roles: David Morse". The A.V. club. Retrieved July 26, 2008. 
  12. ^ "The 59th Primetime Emmy Awards and Creative Arts Emmy Awards Nominees are...". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved March 2, 2008. 
  13. ^ a b Amodio, Joseph V. (February 24, 2008). "Fast Chat: David Morse". Actor David Morse of 'The Green Mile' and 'Disturbia' is starring on Broadway in 'The Seafarer.' (Newsday). 
  14. ^ a b "‘Restoration’ wins at Karlovy Vary". Variety. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  15. ^ "On the Waterfront". The Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved July 26, 2008. 
  16. ^ Latifi, Sadia (June 12, 2007). "We Ask David Morse of ‘The Seafarer’ Who's Tougher: The Devil or House?". New York Magazine. Retrieved November 28, 2008. 
  17. ^ "The Seafarer". The Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved July 26, 2008. 

External links[edit]