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A well-regarded actor on stage and television in his native England, David Morrissey received critical acclaim for intense dramatic turns on such small screen projects as the series "Holding On" (BBC, 2007) and "Blackpool" (BBC One, 2004) and in the TV feature "The Deal" (Channel 4, 2003)," which led to roles in American features as well as a critical role on the hit American series "The Walking Dead" (AMC, 2010- ). After making his debut as a teenager on the series "One Summer" (Channel 4, 1983), Morrissey gave compelling turns as men under pressure - both internal and external - in "The Widowmaker" (ITV, 1990) and "State of Play" (BBC One, 2001). His divergent turns in "The Deal" and "Blackpool" as Prime Minister Gordon Brown and an aggressive arcade owner, respectively, made him one of England's most respected actors, but he was unable to translate this status into screen stardom with "Basic Instinct 2" (2006). Morrissey then returned to U.K. TV, scoring highly with "Red Riding" (Channel 4, 2009) and "Thorne" (Sky1, 2010) before co-starring on the American science fiction series "Extant" (CBS 2014-15) opposite Halle Berry. But it was his showcased role as the malevolent Governor on "The Walking Dead" that indicated that Morrissey was poised for stardom that exceeded the bounds of his fame in England.
Born David Mark Morrissey in the Kensington district of Liverpool, England on June 21, 1964, he was the fourth and youngest child of cobbler Joe Morrissey and his wife Joan. Morrissey decided to become an actor after seeing Ken Loach's acclaimed drama "Kes" (1969) on television, and joined the famed Everyman Theatre in Liverpool. The Everyman also helped him to land his first screen role as a troubled teen on "One Summer," a drama series penned by Willy Russell, who had a long association with the theater. Morrissey then studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art before performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal National Theatre. In 1987, he returned to television as a naïve young handyman whose obsession with his employer (Helen Mirren) led him to murder her husband in playwright Terence Rattigan"s "Cause Célèbre (Anglia Television, 1987). He followed this with a role as a spree killer in the BAFTA-nominated TV film "The Widowmaker," which helped cement his tightly-wrapped screen persona. During this period, Morrissey also studied the fundamentals of filmmaking through a youth program that gave him the opportunity to shoot short films on Super 8.
The early 1990s found Morrissey working almost exclusively on television, playing authoritative figures on series like "Between the Lines" and in TV-movies like the Iraq War drama "The One That Got Away" (ITV, 1996) for director Paul Greengrass. Morrissey then moved to lead roles, most notably on the ITV series "Finney" (1994) as a jazz musician with underworld connections, and a tax inspector on the brink on "Holding On," which earned him a Royal Television Society Programme Award nomination for Best Male Actor. His breakthrough feature film was "Hilary and Jackie" (1998), about classical musician siblings Hilary and Jacqueline du Prè (Rachel Griffiths and Emily Watson, respectively) and Morrissey as Hilary's husband, orchestral conductor Christopher Finzi. The success of the picture led to more high-profile film roles, including "Some Voices" (2000) as the brother of schizophrenic Daniel Craig, and as a Labour MP connected to a series of murders on "State of Play," which earned him the British Television Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
That same year, he played U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown in "The Deal," Stephen Frears' drama about alleged political maneuvering between Brown and Tony Blair, which captured the Royal Television Society's top male acting award. Morrissey then switched gears for the musical dramedy series "Blackpool," which cast him against type as a small-time businessman who hoped to turn his fortune around by switching his arcade into a Las Vegas-styled casino. Though only a modest ratings hit, the series reaped both British Academy Television and Golden Globe Awards, while Morrissey himself was named the second favorite actor of 2004 in a BBC poll. He later reprised the role on the 2006 sequel, "Viva Blackpool" (BBC One). Morrissey also made his first professional films as a director during this period, shooting several short films before earning a BAFTA nomination for "Sweet Revenge" (2001), a two-part television feature for the BBC. Three years later, he directed the highly-rated "Passer By" (BBC One, 2004) about a man who refused to prevent a woman's assault.
The high-profile afforded by "The Deal" and "Blackpool" led to his first lead in an American feature, "Basic Instinct 2" (2006). However, the film was a failure, not only at the box office, but also for Morrissey himself, who was singled out with savagely negative reviews. The bad press spurred him to briefly consider dropping out of acting, but he reconsidered and was soon cast in another stateside picture, the supernatural thriller "The Reaping" (2007) with Hilary Swank. Unfortunately, the picture proved to be another financial disaster, but Morrissey rebounded with a 2008 TV adaptation of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" (BBC One) with Janet McTeer and Dominic Cooper.
After making his debut as a feature film director with "Don't Worry About Me" (2007), he tackled a slew of top quality British TV projects, including "The Next Doctor," the 2008 Christmas special episode of "Doctor Who" (BBC One, 1963-1989, 2005- ), which cast him as a human who believed himself to be the Doctor after being manipulated by alien technology. His critically-praised performance led to widespread speculation that Morrissey would take over the role after David Tennant's departure from the series in 2010. He then tackled the difficult role of a corrupt police detective seeking redemption in "Red Riding" before fulfilling mystery writer Mark Billingham's desire to have him play his fictional hero, Detective Tom Thorne, in the six-episode series "Thorne," for which he also served as executive producer. In 2012, he was cast as The Governor, the power-mad leader of a Southern settlement who made life miserable for the band of survivors in the third season of "The Walking Dead." After the character's arc ended on that series, Morrissey joined the cast of the Halle Berry-starring science fiction thriller "Extant" (CBS 2014-15).
By Paul Gaita
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made onscreen debut with starring role on British drama "One Summer" (Channel 4)
Feature film debut, "Drowning by Numbers"
Played Little John opposite Patrick Bergin's "Robin Hood" (Fox)
Co-starred with Timothy Dalton in ITV miniseries "Framed"
Landed minor role in Robin Williams vehicle "Being Human"
Played the husband of musician Hilary du Pré (Rachel Griffiths) in biopic "Hilary and Jackie"
Appeared in "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" opposite Nicolas Cage and Penélope Cruz
Played lead role of local entrepreneur Ripley Holden in BBC miniseries "Blackpool"
Took over from Michael Douglas as Sharon Stone's co-star in sequel "Basic Instinct 2"
Cast as the Duke of Norfolk in period drama "The Other Boleyn Girl"
Starred as the titular detective in mystery dramas "Thorne: Sleepyhead" and "Thorne: Scaredy Cat"
Joined cast of AMC's "The Walking Dead" as the twisted Governor
Co-starred with James McAvoy in action-drama "Welcome to the Punch"