American actor Derek Morgan talks about the preparation for developing his stage name, relationships + maturity and working in entertainment.
ATM: So, why the “K” in your email address?
DM: My first name is Khalfani.
ATM: Why don’t you use this?
DM: I wanted anonymity. So, if I lived or moved somewhere, you would never know it was me. I use my real name for my life. Derek Morgan is my brand, my stage name.
ATM: So, what name do you use now?
DM: Derek Morgan. I do not use my first name. I started with Derek Morgan long before Shemar Moore made it famous. He told me this is the third time he’s played a character named Derek Morgan.
ATM: How is it spelled?
DM: K H A L F A N I
ATM: It is a very nice name. See I could not imagine dropping my first name “Gabrielle.” Some people pronounce my name Debra. They call me Gabriella, Gabriel, Gobrielle, etc.
DM: (Laughs). But your name is Gabrielle.
ATM: Right. What does your family call you?
DM: Derek. They call me Khalfani when they get angry, but normally they call me Derek.
ATM: Do you miss your first name?
DM: I had a great time talking to you. This is your interviewing platform? I see you do all the interviews.
DM: Wow. How old are you?
ATM: I recently turned 22.
DM: Recently turned 22. What kind of parents do you have?! Who are your parents?!
DM: Because you are sooo mature. I am getting into your life now.
ATM: You do not want to know my life. But what I will say is that I grew up and still am around people who have made a lot of life-altering choices. There are some choices that an individual can make them alter their life forever and they lose years they cannot get back. I learned from people who made A LOT of terrible mistakes. I wanted for once to see what life was like if I went the complete opposite direction.
DM: Very wise. I applaud and clap my hand to you with the pop noise. You know the part in your hand that hits the air. I admire you. During the interview, I was like “Who thinks like this?” A lot of people do not think like you.
ATM: See this kind of makes sense now. This is what makes it very impossible to converse with people my age. Anything I say or ask is foreign. They do not understand because they have not gone through anything. But when talking to adults, they get it and seem to understand me.
DM: Yeah, I understand. Especially, with the stuff, you were saying. We were talking about maturity and how we outgrow each other. I had a rich guy tell me the same thing. Some men divorce their wives because their wives do not grow with them. You are forced to either get better or worst. If you get better, then you start leaving people behind. You cannot always go back to the one you knew.
ATM: A person who has done wrong in a marriage or relationship often buys their significant other something because they feel guilty.
DM: Yes. Usually, the person who receives the gift stays. They do not go anywhere. Sometimes it is a hush gift. “I still got my girl on the side. I got you this so you can take note that I love you.”
ATM: “So you cannot ask any questions of where I am. Put this nice pearl necklace on and forget about why I did not come at seven o’clock.”
DM: It is true. You are right. They buy something. I love it. Great interview. I have had interviews with people, and they spend so much time trying to hype it up. This is distracting to the interview. Everybody is not hype. So now I have to match their hype. I end up not thinking properly. I am too busy trying to get up to where they are. But you kept it nice and calm and cool. You asked some great questions. I admire you. Did you interview Kirk Taylor? I used to go to church with him back in the day. It was attractive to me when reading how you jumped into some stuff. You talked about God. You challenged him. I could tell in the questions. I thought it was interesting how the interview went. It was not all about the production. You talked about the play but also got into him as a person.
ATM: You call it hype. Whereas, I call it being starstruck. You guys are people. I respect your profession, but also realize you have nieces, nephews, and you are someone’s son or daughter. I do not want your autograph. I am not focused on the millions you have made. I do not want to know who you had sex with last night or who you are dating. I just want to know your passion. Because to know your passion helps bring out my passion.
But Really? I did not see this. Honestly, I cannot comprehend anything in my interviews. To me, they are just simple questions that are ab lib. So, me challenging Taylor? No. This is funny and interesting. When I read the interviews, I hear the recording. I hear the cries, the whimpers, the laughs, the top industry male directors yelling because they realized through me that their father did not love them as a child. Since I am the artist or the writer, I will never truly understand or know what someone else gets out of my interview. I could not even tell what the interviews are about or what they mean. As I said, I hear the recording. So, I say thank you, but in my head, I am like “Why am I being thanked?” I do not see it, but I want to feel what you feel. To me, each interview is like a painting.
DM: This means you are operating totally in your gift. This is your gift. As actors, we have this gift that they call acting. The gift is applied to acting. It is not an acting gift. I do not believe there is a gift called acting. This gift helps us win Academy awards and get nominated. We have the gift of presentation. We are good at talking to large crowds, and making people feel and experience a catharsis. We are basically a salesman — we sell ourselves. So, your gift is applied to journalism. You do not write down the questions. It just comes to you. It causes you to think, and you think about the next question. This is how our interview went: Block 1, Block 2, Block 3. We were not all over the place. We stayed in a block. This is good. You the bomb! It would help if you were on T.V. though.
ATM: These interviews are getting longer. This would allow me to further express your passion. Plus, I know literally every position from the transportation driver, location scout, to the director in all entities both television and film. What do you think it should be called? Should I drop the “Smith.”
DM: Maybe. “Gabrielle Alexandra” sounds exotic.
ATM: How does it sound exotic?
DM: It does sound exotic. Umm, “Alexandra Smith” has a ring to it.
ATM: So, just drop my first name “Gabrielle” and make it “Alexandra Smith.” My first name would be private and only used by people I know.
DM: Yes, but you need to be on T.V. with only two chairs. The way this interview went people will enjoy sitting with you. I could not ever see someone having a bad interview with you. You get into the person. It becomes personal in a cool way. You want to know more about the person. You said to me. “What do you think about this part about human development?” “What? Okay. Do I have to think about this? I went in. I was able to answer the question because I understood it from the perspective of monkeys. This is what I am talking about. I was able to answer the question from my own experience with monkeys. This is a gift, man. I don’t know if you see it.
ATM: No, I do not see it.
DM: You should go back and reread some of your stuff.
ATM: I will never see or feel what you got out of it. I have tried, and I just point out the mistakes. They are just words to me in a respectful way. Rappers and actors do not listen to their music. If you are the maker of something, then you will not get it. This is what makes it art. So, I cannot read it and get whatever you get from it.
DM: Well, I do not watch my movies. The only reason I watched this film was because I was invited to the red carpet. The movie is a part of the red carpet. When you asked the human development question, I was like, “Okay this is going to be good.”
ATM: I could tell by your voice. You were like, “Oh, I do not know where this was going. But okay.”
DM: But I did know where it was going though. It was in a block, and it was interesting.
ATM: I didn’t even see where it was going. They are just questions like I said.
DM: You were talking about freedom and monkeys and projects. Them tearing up stuff because they do not own anything brings a sense of freedom. The guy with a full drum set in the projects – I grew up with him on the 14th floor. The whole living room was his drum set. This was before they had the electronic drum set and you can hear the same sound in the headphones. No! He had full on symbols and drums. He only played during the day. He played full drum rhythms all day long. That was amazing.
You had guitar players. Also, Santeria. In this religion, they were killing and sacrificing chickens in the bedroom. We had a chicken farm on 126th on Amsterdam Ave in Harlem. You go on there, and they would slaughter the chicken for you. They would sacrifice the chicken in the bedroom. It was blood and all. You will be surprised what people do in the projects in the apartments. My cousin Larry was sacrificing chickens in his bedroom. I thought it was repulsive. I could not believe it. Full on dead chickens and pouring blood in cups. I was like, “Larry what are you doing? What is this?” No one cares about the neighbor upstairs or to the side. There is creativeness going on. This is freedom.
ATM: This is interesting about your cousin and also about the creativity. But you see I do not start out personal. It is not even my focus. Some interviews I cannot use because the Hollywood professional got too deep and personal. Like, death, not being a good father, miscarriages, molestation, crying on the phone to me, domestic abuse, cocaine addictions, watching their parents commit suicide in their face at 11, or just plain expressing how suicidal they feel at the moment, and alcoholism. See there is a difference when an interviewer starts with the personal vs an interviewer that just asks a complete simple question as the first one. I try my best to go back to the subject which is their show or movie, but they keep going. This stuff is not even on Google or in the public eye. You will never get to hear these. I have heard it all.
But if someone does not know you, how can you tell someone’s rep this is just my “gift” as you said. Then some lie and say they never said it and they decide not to work with me anymore. They think I fabricated all the things I just named. Once for a straight two weeks, every person I interviewed expressed to me they were suicidal or talked about some form of suicide. But I cannot help it or stop it even with talking points, because like you said it is “my gift.”
I have stayed on the phone with some of these professionals for 2-3 hours. They do not want to get off the phone. For the most part, I am a one person ban. So, if 10 people are on the phone with me for one hour to 2 hours or more. You cannot receive anything in 2 days, not even in 7 days. Let’s be realistic.
DM: Wow. Oh my God! This is a part of your gift with a bit of psychology. Instead of two chairs, what about your chair and they lay on the couch?
ATM: This sounds interesting. I have never thought of it in this way. The interviews are turning into more than 4 parts per person.
DM: You need to be on T.V. though. It would make things easier. I am going to stay connected with you. I am very impressed with you. One of these days we will have a sit-down interview. We will say, “So, we finally meet. I talked to you on the phone. Remember those days? I remembered how brilliant you were and look at you now.” We are going to be doing this one of these days. Mark those words!