*When Tracy Morgan was growing up in Bed-Stuy, he witnessed a lot of “deprivation.”
He was one of five children raised by his mother, who, he says, gave him the stubbornness to “refuse to lose” and a father who told him he “had to be better.”
The admonitions paid off.
Today, Morgan is a bonafide celebrity. He stars on “30 Rock,” one of NBC’s hottest sitcoms and, this week, his latest movie, “Cop Out,” co-starring Bruce Willis, opens nationwide.
In the film Morgan plays Paul, a policeman who not only is helping his partner (Willis) search for a rare baseball card, but who is also obsessed with the notion that his wife may be unfaithful.
For Morgan, working opposite Willis and with director Kevin Smith (“Clerks,” “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”), helped him step up his game.
“Bruce is iconic,” said Morgan, during a recent phone interview. “He’s worked with everybody. It’s about getting the job done and staying focused. We had a lot of fun behind the scenes. Bruce is a humble guy. I walked away with a sense that he’s really down to earth. This was a dream come true for them to offer me this role.”
The combination of Morgan, Smith and Willis made for a blockbuster comedy, something that is right up the comedian’s alley.
One of the reasons Morgan agreed to do “Cop Out” is because it reminded him of the Eddie Murphy/Nick Nolte pairing in “48 Hrs.”
“That’s what I had in mind,” said Morgan whose role on “30 Rock” earned him an Emmy nomination last year. “I wanted to be up to those standards. I love Eddie [Murphy]. I would love to work with him one day. I remember watching “48 Hrs.” That’s what made me want to do comedy.”
Comedy is Morgan’s thing. He honed his craft doing standup and eventually racked up seven seasons on “Saturday Night Live” and even starred in his own short-lived sitcom, “The Tracy Morgan Show.”
Some of his film credits include: “First Sunday,” “Little Man,” “The Longest Yard” and “Are We There Yet?”
Morgan, who published an autobiography last year titled “I Am the New Black,” doesn’t take his good fortune lightly. He’s excelled at stand-up, films and television. And each one of those genres, said Morgan, has fulfilled him in a specific way.
“TV makes you a household name,” he said. “Stand-up keeps me honest and movies give me freedom.”
Admittedly, all of the genres have also helped Morgan creatively.
“All of these help me with my TV because where I came from there was no filter,” said Morgan, a father of three who divorced recently after 21 years of marriage. “Movies helped me with my confidence. Stand-up, there is nothing in the world like live entertainment. They let you know in the first three seconds if they like you or not.”
Morgan has settled in comfortably with his career. But don’t ask him to look into his crystal ball when it comes to what’s next on the horizon.
“People always ask me about the future,” said Morgan. “I can’t call it. I might spoil it. I’m just enjoying what’s going on today. Hopefully more opportunities will come.”
“Cop Out” is directed by Kevin Smith, from a screenplay by Robb Cullen & Mark Cullen. The film stars Morgan, Bruce Willis, Adam Brody, Kevin Pollak, Guillermo Diaz and Seann William Scott.
“Cop Out” (Warner Bros.) is set to open nationwide Friday, Feb. 26
Watch the trailer for ‘Cop Out’: