Topics better left unbroached when talking to actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan: A) his separated-at-birth resemblance to No Country for Old Men Oscar-winner Javier Bardem, and B) his beloved Seattle Seahawks’ stumbles last season. He laughs through gritted teeth when answering questions about the former and sounds like he’s been kicked in the crotch when discussing the latter. “Between the Seahawks and losing the Sonics, I’m over it,” the Kirkland native groans over the phone from LA. “I’m having a bad Seattle year, man.” Fair enough. We’ll stick to talking about the considerably better year he’s about to have.
Fanboys have been geeking out for months about Morgan’s part in this month’s big-budget film adaptation of Watchmen, the genre-defining graphic novel in which disturbingly fallible superheroes fight to prove their relevance to a New York on the verge of apocalypse. Think The Dark Knight, only darker. And much-publicized legal mud wrestling earlier this year over the movie’s distribution rights helped pique the interest of nonfanboys, which almost guarantees a big opening weekend. Not that there’s any pressure. “I always knew how important this particular project is to some people,” Morgan says, “but something happened to me during filming and it kind of dawned on me that, ‘Oh my god, I’m in way over my head.’ ”
When he took on the role of the Comedian, Watchmen’s nihilistic, homicidal “hero,” he also learned to embrace his dark side. He’s spent the past several years wooing Katherine Heigl from a hospital bed on Grey’s Anatomy while praying in vain for a heart transplant (and then popping up again later as her ghostly lover); teaching Hilary Swank to love again in P.S. I Love You; and secretly marrying Uma Thurman (wait, what?) in The Accidental Husband. So now, he says with a laugh, “people know I can play a dick. Which is great.”
If you let him, he’ll tell you about the rough road he had to travel to get to Hollywood, and he’s not just doing the humble actor thing. This is a guy who gave up playing basketball at Skagit Valley College not because he blew out his knee but because he got jumped by five guys and stabbed (“They didn’t like the fact that I had Dippity Doo in my hair or something”). This is a guy who used to party with Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard and then watched them become grunge gods in Pearl Jam while he struggled to make rent. This is a guy who wound up playing a homicidal pimp in his first movie, the 1991 thriller Uncaged.
Almost 20 years after giving acting a shot because nothing else was working, Morgan finally has tangible proof of his success: a six-inch action figure of himself. “I found out a long time ago that whatever love I have for acting stemmed from playing make believe with G.I. Joes,” he says. “Now, some little kid may have a Comedian doll in his hand, running it through the mud, and that’s pretty cool.”