David Morse

David Bowditch Morse[1][2] (born October 11, 1953) is an American actor, singer, television director, and writer. He first came to national attention as Dr. Jack "Boomer" Morrison in the medical drama series St. Elsewhere (1982–88). He continued his film career with roles in The Negotiator, Contact, The Green Mile, Dancer in the Dark, Disturbia, The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Rock and 12 Monkeys.

David Morse
Morse in 2015
Born (1953-10-11) October 11, 1953
Beverly, Massachusetts, U.S.
Alma materWilliam Esper Studio
OccupationActor, singer, television director, writer
Years active1980 - present
Height6 ft 4 in (193 cm)
Susan Wheeler Duff
(m. 1982)

In 2006, Morse had a recurring role as Detective Michael Tritter on the medical drama series House, for which he received an Emmy Award nomination. He portrayed George Washington in the 2008 HBO miniseries John Adams, which garnered him a second Emmy nomination. He has also received acclaim for his portrayal of Uncle Peck on the Off-Broadway play How I Learned to Drive, earning a Drama Desk Award and Obie Award. He has also had success on Broadway, portraying James "Sharky" Harkin in The Seafarer. From 2010 to 2013, he portrayed Terry Colson, an honest police officer in a corrupt New Orleans police department, on the HBO series Treme. He also appeared in the WGN America series Outsiders (2016–17) and in the Showtime miniseries Escape at Dannemora (2018).

Early life

Morse was born October 11, 1953, in Beverly, Massachusetts, the son of Jacquelyn, a school teacher, and Charles Morse, a sales manager.[3] He was raised in Essex, Massachusetts and Hamilton, Massachusetts. His middle name, Bowditch, comes from mathematician Nathaniel Bowditch.[1]


Film and television

After graduating from high school in 1971, Morse studied acting at the William Esper Studio.[4] He began his acting career in the theater as a player for the Boston Repertory Theatre in the early 1970s.[5] In the mid-1970s, Esquire Jauchem, artistic director of the Boston Repertory Theater, adapted and directed a stage musical version of The Point! that starred an 18-year-old Morse as Oblio. The production later toured to the Trinity Square Repertory Company in Providence. He spent some time in New York's theater community in the early 1980s before moving into television and film.[5] During that time, Morse was listed as one of the twelve most "Promising New Actors of 1980" in John A. Willis's Screen World, Vol. 32.[6] Morse's big break came in 1982 when he was cast in the television medical drama St. Elsewhere. He played Dr. Jack "Boomer" Morrison, a young physician who is forced to deal with the death of his wife and the struggles of a single parent professional.[7]

Morse appeared in a number of supporting roles following St. Elsewhere. He is quoted as saying: "I made the decision that I didn't care if there was any money in the role or not. I had to find roles that were different from what I had been doing."[8] His turn in Desperate Hours as antagonist showed a darker Morse.[8] He later starred in The Indian Runner and The Crossing Guard. He has appeared in three adaptations of Stephen King stories: The Langoliers, Hearts in Atlantis, and The Green Mile. He was a guest star on Homicide: Life on the Street, playing a racist cousin of Detective Tim Bayliss.[9]

Morse in 2005

In 2002, Morse starred as Mike Olshansky, an ex-Philadelphia police officer turned cab driver, in the television film Hack. The film was so well received that a television series with the same name was created. For his role in the 2002 crime-drama film Shuang Tong, Morse was nominated as Best Supporting Actor in the Golden Horse Awards, the first ever nomination for an English-speaking actor. He appeared as questionable neighbor Mr. Turner in the 2007 release Disturbia. Film critic and commentator John Podhoretz wrote that Morse is a "largely unsung character actor who enlivens and deepens every movie fortunate enough to have him in the cast".[10]

In 2006, Morse received a phone call from David Shore, having previously worked with him on the Hack series, who asked him if he would be interested in having a guest role on House. When Morse watched the show, he could not understand why people watched the show, because he believed that "this House guy is a total jerk". When he told some of his friends about the offer, however, their excited reactions convinced him to accept the role.[11] Morse portrayed Michael Tritter, a detective with a vendetta against Dr. House. He earned his first Emmy Award nomination for his work on the series.[12]

In 2008, Morse portrayed George Washington in the HBO miniseries John Adams, for which his nose was made bigger. Morse commented: "The first thing that comes to mind is my nose; it was my big idea to do that nose. We didn't have a lot of time, because they asked me to do this about three weeks before they started shooting, and I just kept looking at these portraits and thinking 'this man's face is so commanding'. And I did not feel that my face was very commanding in the way his was. So I convinced them that we should try the nose, and we tried it on, and everybody went 'wow, that's Washington'."[11] Morse's portrayal earned him his second Emmy Award nomination. He is currently reprising the role of Washington in voice form as part of The Hall of Presidents show in Walt Disney World Resort's Magic Kingdom.

Morse has stated that out of all of the films he has done, his favorites are The Green Mile,[13] The Crossing Guard, and The Indian Runner.[11] In 2010, he guest starred in two episodes of the HBO drama series Treme, as Lt. Terry Colson of the New Orleans Police Department. He was promoted to series regular starting with the show's second season, which began in April 2011. Later that year, Morse won the best actor award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival for his role in Collaborator.[14] He played an ex-CIA agent in the film World War Z (2013). He played the late NFL player, Mike Webster, in the biographical sports drama Concussion.


In addition to his film and television career, Morse has continued to appear on stage. For his performance in the 1997 Off-Broadway production of Paula Vogel's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama How I Learned to Drive, he received an Obie Award, a Drama League Award, a Drama Desk Award, and a Lucille Lortel Award. That same year, he played Father Barry in the play adaptation of On the Waterfront. The play ran for only eight performances.[15] From 2007 to 2008, Morse appeared on Broadway in Conor McPherson's play The Seafarer.[16][17] He received a Tony Award nomination for his role in the 2018 Broadway revival of The Iceman Cometh.

Personal life

Morse has three younger siblings.[5] He has been married to actress and author of The Habit, Susan Wheeler Duff Morse, since 1982. They have one daughter, Eliza, and twin sons Benjamin and Samuel.[5] After the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Morse and his family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they currently live.[8][13]



Year Title Role Notes
1980Inside MovesJerry Maxwell
1982Max Dugan ReturnsShoe Store Cop
1987Personal FoulBen
1990Desperate HoursAlbert
1991The Indian RunnerJoe Roberts
1993The Good SonJack Evans
1994The GetawayJim "Deer" Jackson
1994Magic Kid IIJack
1995The Taming Power of the Small
1995The Crossing GuardJohn BoothNominated Best Supporting Male at the Independent Spirit Awards
199512 MonkeysDr. Peters
1996The RockMajor Tom Baxter
1996Extreme MeasuresFBI Agent Frank Hare
1996The Long Kiss GoodnightLuke / Daedalus
1997George BGeorge
1997ContactTed Arroway
1998The Legend of Pig Eye
1998The NegotiatorAdam Beck
1999Crazy in AlabamaDove Bullis
1999The Green MileBrutus "Brutal" HowellNominated Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
2000BaitEdgar Clenteen
2000Dancer in the DarkBill Houston
2000Proof of LifePeter Bowman
2001Diary of a City PriestFather John McNamee
2001Hearts in AtlantisAdult Bobby Garfield
2002The Slaughter RuleGideon "Gid" Ferguson
2002Double VisionKevin RichterNominated Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Horse Film Festival
2005Down in the ValleyWade
2005Nearing GraceShep Nearing
2005Dreamer: Inspired by a True StoryEverett Palmer
2006A.W.O.L.Major Cliff Marquette
200616 BlocksDet. Frank Nugent
2007DisturbiaRobert Turner
2009The Hurt LockerColonel ReedGotham Independent Film Award for Best Ensemble Cast
WAFCA Award for Best Ensemble
2010Mother and ChildTom
2010ShanghaiRichard Astor
2010Mint JulepKarl
2010The PondAdam 11Short film
2011Drive AngryWebster
2011CollaboratorGus WilliamsKarlovy Vary International Film Festival Award for Best Actor[14]
Nominated Best Actor in a Leading Role at the Canadian Screen Awards
2012The Odd Life of Timothy GreenJames "Big Jim" Green Sr.
2013HornsDale Williams
2013McCanickEugene "Mack" McCanickAlso producer
2013World War ZEx-CIA Agent
2013Winter in the BloodAirplane Man
2015The BoyJohn Henley
2015ConcussionMike Webster[18]
2017Thank You for Your ServiceFred Gusman
2021The VirtuosoThe Deputy
TBAThe Gettysburg AddressAbraham LincolnVoice


Year Title Role Notes
1981NurseKevin MalloryEpisode: "Equal Opportunity"
1981Our Family BusinessPhilTelevision film
1982–88St. ElsewhereDr. Jack Morrison137 episodes
Directed episodes:
"A Coupla White Dummies Sitting Around Talking"
1983PrototypeMichaelTelevision film
1984Shattered VowsFather TimTelevision film
1985When Dreams Come TrueRobert WyntonTelevision film
1987Place at the TableTom WilliamsTelevision film
1987KnowzoneHost13 episodes
1987Six Against the RockMarvin HubbardTelevision film
1987Downpayment on MurderDet. JacksonTelevision film
1988WinnieThomasTelevision film
1989Brotherhood of the RoseChris / RemusTelevision film
1989Cross of FireKlell HenryTelevision film
1989Friday the 13th: The SeriesWrote and directed episode: "A Friend to the End"
1989Midnight CallerChandlerEpisode: "Wait Until Midnight"
1991Cry in the Wild: The Taking of Peggy AnnBicycle PeteTelevision film
1992The Hat SquadEpisode: "Frankie Stein"
1992Tales from the CryptTom McMurdoEpisode: "Showdown"
1992Reasonable DoubtsEdward DurrellEpisode: "Moment of Doubt"
1992Dead Ahead: The Exxon Valdez DisasterRick SteinerTelevision film
1993Miracle on Interstate 880Dr. Jim BettsTelevision film
1993Big Wave Dave'sDave Bell6 episodes
1993SeaQuest DSVLenny SutterEpisode: "SeaWest"
1995Homicide: Life on the StreetJim BaylissEpisode: "Colors"
1995Action ManVoices
1995The New Adventures of MadelinePepitoVoice
1995The LangoliersCaptain Brian EngleTelevision film
1995Tecumseh: The Last WarriorGallowayTelevision film
1997Murder Live!Frank McGrathTelevision film
1998Stories from My ChildhoodVoices2 episodes
2001Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House DividedAbraham LincolnVoice
2002–04HackMike Olshansky40 episodes
Wrote episode: "Gone"
2006–07HouseDet. Michael Tritter6 episodes
Nominated Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
2008John AdamsGeorge Washington4 episodes
Nominated Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated Monte-Carlo Television Festival for Outstanding Actor in a Mini Series
2009MediumDouglas Lydecker3 episodes
2009Empire StateJames CochraneEpisode: "Pilot"
2010–13TremeNOPD Lt. Terry Colson31 episodes
2011Lights OutJerry "The Rainmaker" Raines1 episode
2012Victory in DefeatDouglas MacArthurJapanese series
2012Robot ChickenRobin Hood
The Lorax
Episode: "Butchered in Burbank"
2014Untitled Wall Street ProjectConklinCBS pilot
2015True DetectiveEliot Bezzerides3 episodes
2016–17Outsiders"Big Foster" Farrell VI26 episodes
2017–20BlindspotHank Crawford7 episodes
2018Escape at DannemoraGene Palmer6 episodes
2019The DeuceMatthew Rouse2 episodes
2019The Morning ShowMr. Jackson1 episode
2020The Good Lord BirdDutch Henry Sherman7 episodes


Year Title Role Notes
1981ThreadsNubCircle Theatre
1995On the WaterfrontFather Barry
19971998How I Learned to DriveUncle PeckCentury Center for the Performing Arts
Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Actor
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor
Obie Award for Best Performance
Nominated Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actor
20072008The SeafarerJames "Sharky" Harkin
2013The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin[19]Tom DurninLaura Pels Theatre
2018The Iceman ComethLarry SladeBernard B. Jacobs Theatre
Nominated – Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play


  1. Patricia, Sheridan (June 23, 2008). "Patricia Sheridan's Breakfast With ... David Morse". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved November 15, 2009.
  2. "People Search: MORSE, DAVID born 10/11/1953". Veromi. Retrieved October 27, 2009.
  3. "David Morse Biography (1953–)". Filmreference. Retrieved July 25, 2008.
  4. "William Esper Studio for Acting". Archived from the original on October 31, 2007. Retrieved August 14, 2008.
  5. "David Morse Biography". Unofficial David Morse website. Archived from the original on September 17, 2008. Retrieved August 14, 2008.
  6. Willis, John (1982). Screen World 1981. Screen World. 32. Crown. ISBN 978-0-584-97079-1.
  7. Thompson, Robert J. "St. Elsewhere". The Museum of Broadcast Communications. Archived from the original on June 25, 2008. Retrieved July 26, 2008.
  8. Byrne, Bridget (November 8, 2006). "David Morse a 'House' Cop With a Problem". Associated Press. Retrieved August 15, 2008.
  9. Fontana, Tom; Attanasio, Paul; Mark, Bonnie (April 28, 1995). "Colors". Homicide: Life on the Street. Season 3. Episode 19. NBC.
  10. Podhoretz, John (April 30, 2007). "Hitchcock Lite; Entertaining, yes, but Shia LaBeouf is no James Stewart". review on Disturbia. The Weekly Standard. pp. 46–47.
  11. Murray, Noel. "Random Roles: David Morse". The A.V. club. Archived from the original on June 26, 2008. Retrieved July 26, 2008.
  12. "The 59th Primetime Emmy Awards and Creative Arts Emmy Awards Nominees are..." Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved March 2, 2008.
  13. Amodio, Joseph V. (February 24, 2008). "Fast Chat: David Morse". Actor David Morse of 'The Green Mile' and 'Disturbia' is starring on Broadway in 'The Seafarer'. Newsday. Archived from the original on July 24, 2008. Retrieved August 15, 2008.
  14. "'Restoration' wins at Karlovy Vary". Variety. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  15. "On the Waterfront". The Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved July 26, 2008.
  16. Latifi, Sadia (June 12, 2007). "We Ask David Morse of 'The Seafarer' Who's Tougher: The Devil or House?". New York Magazine. Retrieved November 28, 2008.
  17. "The Seafarer". The Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved July 26, 2008.
  18. David Morse as Steeler Mike Webster in Will Smith movie. Blogs.post-gazette.com (October 10, 2014). Retrieved on October 21, 2015.
  19. The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin – 2012–2013 Season – Roundabout Theatre Company Archived August 14, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. Roundabouttheatre.org. Retrieved on October 21, 2015.

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