The man behind Brian Fellows, 30 Rock's Tracy Jordan and a strangely affectionate Oprah Winfrey impersonation grew up in the same time and place as hip-hop. He moved as a teen from Brooklyn to the Bronx, home of such hip-hop founding fathers as DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.
Talking to TVGuide.com in his dressing room Thursday night, just before taping the show, Morgan talked about 30 Rock, Winfrey — and being that rare celebrity who doesn't like to talk politics. The Hip-Hop Honors, recognizing Too Short, Slick Rick, Naughty by Nature, De La Soul, and Cypress Hill, air Monday at 10 pm/ET on VH1. — Tim Molloy
TVGuide.com: Do have any memories of the groups being honored tonight?
Morgan: All of them. Too Short's been around since '83, man. That was my graduation out of the eight grade into the ninth grade. They were playing Too Short in the roller skating ring. So Two Shizzy been around for a long time. And forget about it — Slick Rick? Forget about it. Cypress Hill? When they perform out here tonight everybody's gonna go crazy.
TVGuide.com: You hosted last year, so you must be excited to be back again. How close are you to the music?
Morgan: How close is hip-hop to me? My generation? It's just as our grandparents with do-wop, or their parents with jazz and blues. It's just my generation's music, and thank God I was there at the beginning.
TVGuide.com: We keep seeing the Wu-Tang Clan's Ghostface Killah on 30 Rock. Are you friends in real life?
Morgan: That's my brother from another mother.... We all run in the same circles, we're all from the same cloth. We all come from struggle and all of that stuff, man. For cats to get to this point, doing something that they love to do, you're gonna meet people. Ghost is my dude. Ghost, Nas, Jay-Z, all of them is my people. I'm cool with everybody.
I get tired of people in the mainstream media thinking that there's beef with everybody.... That ain't what hip-hop's about. Everybody here is doing their thing together. It's all collaboration in here. God is filling this whole building. His spirit is moving right in this room with us. It's all good times and good things. Mainstream media need to stop putting that on us.
TVGuide.com: We'll see Steve Martin, Jennifer Aniston and Oprah Winfrey on 30 Rock this year. Anyone else?
Morgan: Stay tuned. I don't want to give nothin' away. That's not my show, that's Tina Fey's show.
TVGuide.com: Did Oprah know about your impersonation when she went on 30 Rock?
Morgan: Who knows? Oprah loves 30 Rock. She didn't say nothin' to me about it. What, she was gonna come curse me out? Oprah loves to see a young black man doing his thing.
TVGuide.com: When you do an imitation of somebody, are you nervous about —
Morgan: I've done it, but that's not what a real talent is, impersonating somebody. The real talent is finding and creating a character of your own that's never been done before, something original. And that's what I get off on. Yeah, I've done impersonations on SNL and all but I didn't enjoy it as much as creating Brian Fellows or Woodrow or Astronaut Jones. Those are my original, personal things that came from inside of me, not from me looking at somebody on TV. Anybody can do [impersonations], I think.
TVGuide.com: So you don't worry when you meet somebody who you've done?
Morgan: No, I mean Oprah ain't 50 [Cent]. What, I'm supposed to be worried? I gotta make a living. [Begins singing the intro to Jennifer Lopez's "Jenny from the Block": "Children grow and women producing, men go working, some go stealing, Everyone's got to make a living..."]
TVGuide.com: At the Emmys you usually see people sitting like they're not that excited to win. But when 30 Rock wins, you're in the moment. You love the show.
Morgan: Somebody's getting hit in the mouth. We come in, 30 Rock, we come in, we set it off. Who? Him? Bwow. Now the fight just started. We ain't about all that talking. We get down. We got a killer crew, we got a killer writing crew, we got killer producers. It's good. It was a perfect, perfect situation for me. I didn’t know if I was gonna come back to TV. I was gonna maybe pursue a movie career, movies and stuff. But things worked out well.
TVGuide.com: If there could be one question that no one would ever ask you again in your life, what would it be?
Morgan: 'Are you having fun?' or, 'What's next?' I'm still enjoying the last thing I've done. I'm still enjoying First Sunday. I'm still enjoying Scare Tactics. Why do I have to do something now? Why can't I just spend time with my loved ones and my family? I don't have time for them, and then they want to know why families break down in show business and all that. People ask me what's next, and I don't get tired, 'cause you know how I answer it? I say I'm leaving that in God's hands. And [when] most people ask that question, it's coming from a really sheisty place. So I just put the word 'God' at them and it scares them.
TVGuide.com: Are you going to watch the Vice Presidential debate tonight?
Morgan: I'll be here.
TVGuide.com: Yeah, but are you gonna record it and then —
Morgan: No. No. I ain't even watching none of that stuff. I don't even care. I don't even get into politics. It was never discussed in my house. Because I've seen presidents come and go and all my people's still broke. So when that changes, then I'll start to vote. Nobody cares once they get in office. They always make promises to the little people, then they forget about us.
TVGuide.com: But you've said you support Barack Obama. You don't want to see how his running mate does?
Morgan: Yeah, he's gonna do well. He's gonna win. But I'm not concerned with all that. That's all pride. What's gonna go down once you get in there? Because people are unhappy and it's getting ugly out here. So you gotta do something, pa. And everybody's putting him on a pedestal like he's gonna do something the first day.... I know, it's gonna be an all-white administration — and they better not jump him.
See some of Tracy Morgan's best moments on our Online Video Guide.