I was born in Bountiful, Utah and raised in Alaska. We moved North when I was 9 and I lived in Anchorage through high school and a year or so of college theatrics. I traveled the country for a while, spending some time in New York, until putting down in L.A. about in 1981. I lived there for 30 years until I'd had my fill, now I live about 90 miles North, in the Ojai Valley.
I started to make a living as an actor when I ran away to join the circus as a clown and wire walker for Satan's Wild Animal Circus of Agony in the mid-1970's and then served my theatrical apprenticeship with the Alaska Repertory Theatre during its 1977-79 seasons. Since then, I've done about a hundred plays at theatres like the McCarter Theatre, the La Jolla Playhouse, the Mark Taper Forum, the LA Stage Company, The Jupiter Theatre, The Salt Lake Acting Company, The Old Globe, and The Pasadena Playhouse with such wonderful directors as Emily Mann, Des McAnuff, Jack O'Brien, Charles Nelson Reilly, Jose Quintero, Robert Egan and Harry Mastrogeorge.
I picked up a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Performance (in a play called El Salvador. It's where I met Riad) and three Drama-Logue Awards. I was in the London premiere of Emily Mann's Still Life at the West End's Donmar Warehouse and the Riverside Studios after we played The Edinburgh Festival at the venerable Traverse Theatre where the production received a Fringe First Award.
I appear in the films Relish, The Meanest Man in Texas, I Am I, The Jazz Funeral, Raspberry Magic, Catch Me If You Can, The One, Falling Down, Abilene, Wilderness Survival for Girls and Jarhead.
On television, I most recently appeared as Warden Murphy in Twin Peaks: The Return on Showtime. I was Bill Buchanan in seasons four, five, six and seven of FOX's 24. I've had recurring roles on Revenge as the White Haired Man, and HawthoRNe and Private Practice, also as white haired men. In addition to the short-lived Those Who Kill for A&E, I can be seen in the web series Blue on YouTube's WIGS channel. I played Col. McQueen in the one and only season of FOX's Space: Above and Beyond. Since the mid-'80's I've taken numerous episodic assignments including Law and Order: SVU, The Orville, Major Crimes, NCIS, Law & Order: Los Angeles, Six Feet Under, West Wing, Frasier, Millennium, The X-Files, and Cold Case, among many, many others.
You could have heard me on the radio if you tuned into the BBC production of Julius Caesar or the LA Theatre Works/KCRW productions of Judgment at Nuremberg, Ruby McCollum, The Rainmaker, Pressure, Spill, The Tug of War, and Pressure, as General Dwight D. Eisenhower. I also did the national tour of L.A. Theatre Works' production of In the Heat of the Night and narrated Mark Frost's The Secret History of Twin Peaks.
Riad Galayini and I have made several films together, our latest being the feature length documentary, Showing Up. In '96 I directed my first film, Parking. It's based on my short play - mounted by numerous theaters over the years - and was produced by Riad. Parking has screened at a whole slew of festivals including Slamdance (Audience Choice Award for Best Short Film); the Palm Springs International; the Portland, Cleveland, Sedona, and Albany; the Taos Talking Picture Festival; Austin's South By Southwest Festival; New York's New Directors/New Films Festival presented by Lincoln Center at the Museum of Modern Art; the South Beach Film Festival in Miami; the Central Florida Film Festival (third place narrative film award); the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival; the Montreal World Festival; The Festival of US Shorts in Brisbane, Australia; Ireland's Cork International Film Festival; the St. Louis Film Festival; and The Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema. It also aired on Sundance channel for over a year.
In December 1997 Riad and I completed our second short film, Nude Descending, which she directed. It won the George Melies Award at the 1998 Taos Talking Picture Festival. In 2000 Nude Descending was selected for special recognition by the reelshort.com New Short Film Directors Showcase and Universal Studios at the Hitchcock International Director's Series presented by the American Cinematheque. Riad also directed me in the short she wrote, Crossing, which also did really well on the festival circuit.
As a playwright, my one man play, Leave Your Fears Here, in which I explore my families journey through my son's brain cancer. (He's doing well, in his third year at USCB) It was developed by the 2019 Ojai Playwrights Conference, directed by Robert Egan. Watch this space for productions comng up. In the early '80's, while I was at Sundance Institute's Playwright's Conference as an actor, Idle Wheels, my first play - a semi-autobiographical examination of growing up in Alaska - was developed at Sundance and first produced at the Salt Lake Acting Company. I'm a member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre, the company that first produced Parking on the stage. I've written a few plays now and they've been seen at The Playwrights' Center of Minneapolis; LA Theatre Works; The MET Theatre; City Theatre in Miami; The Two Parts Theatre Company; The Classical Theatre Lab; and The Road Theatre in L.A.
I taught a recurring acting class for almost a year at L.A.'s BGB Studio, and used to be a Lecture Fellow at Bournemouth University School of Media in the UK. I'm also certified to teach Hatha yoga by the White Lotus Foundation in Santa Barbara, where I still study and teach with my friends and mentors, Tracey Rich and Ganga White, in addition to sitting on their Board of Trustees. I taught regular weekly classes for nearly 10 years at L.A.'s oldest studio, The Center for Yoga (founded by Ganga White in 1967) part of the YogaWorks family. You can find out more about my yoga practice here.
There are few artists in the American theatre with the intelligence and sheer audacity of James Morrison. As both actor and writer, his contribution to the theatre is undeniable in his powerful quest for truth.
- Emily Mann