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Photo by Marquis Ransom.

Get to Know the Filmmaker: Samuel C. Morrison Jr.

Samuel C. Morrison Jr. is a Liberian-born, New Jersey-raised indie filmmaker whose recent feature By Deception just dropped on Peacock. Considering its intriguing logline — involving a novelist who “reckons with the notion that a murderer is in his midst” — we wanted to hear more about the thriller, as well as the person behind it. Keep reading for insights into Morrison Jr. that range from his creative process to whom he’d want to play him in a film about his life.

It’s great to virtually meet you, Samuel, and I’d love to kick things off right at the start of your career journey. When was the moment you realized that filmmaking was the job for you?

I’ve probably known since middle school — I was always told that I was a good writer. It didn’t really resonate with me until my first college tour, though. I was visiting St. Peter’s University in Jersey City and had the opportunity to stay on campus. At the time, I was into writing poetry, although my wife will probably hate me for that reason. You know, I was just a teenage boy whose aim was to try and attract women with it. [Laughs] So, my host for the college tour went off and left me in his dorm room, and I was working on a poem when one of his female friends stopped by. She asked to read it and gave me some great feedback. “It’s so visual, like a movie,” she said. “You should write movies!” That gave me pause. “Oh, so that’s how you get girls,” I thought to myself. [Laughs] So, that’s probably where it all really started.

I love it.

From there — once that initial flame was kindled — it just spread like wildfire. I would watch a movie and then immediately go and research how it fared at the box office and the details behind its production. It became this crazy obsession of trying to figure out how to make movies, and things finally got to the point where it was time for me to jump in and try to make one myself.

Still from ‘By Deception.’ Courtesy of Deck of Cards Entertainment.

Thanks for sharing a bit about your “origin story” as a filmmaker. And now jumping to present day, I have to ask about your new thriller By Deception. From where did you draw inspiration when it came to writing the feature?

For context, By Deception was originally meant to tell the story of a young, hotshot lawyer who gets all these cases stacked up against him and has to beat his own murder rap. I quickly realized, though, I didn’t at that time have the budget to do a production at the scale that would require. So, I considered how I could do something that still kept the essence of the story but in a more condensed form. I thought about myself as a writer and started ruminating on the craziest thing that could happen to me. It’s a cliché, but in this instance, I decided to start from a place of what I knew, from the perspective of being a writer. And from there, I enhanced the story to make it a bit more cinematic, taking it to new levels.

It seems like the process worked, considering By Deception got picked up by Peacock! Now switching gears here, it’s time for my favorite question, which I prepped you on ahead of time. If someone made a film about your life story, which actor would you want to play the role of Samuel C. Morrison Jr.?

I actually did a poll on Instagram last night [at time of interview] to hear from family and friends about this. From their responses, my choice would be Jonathan Majors. If we were going to go big-budget with this feature, I think he’d be a great fit. The range of Jonathan Majors is so vast — from his comedic responses all the way to his traumatic undertones — so I feel like he would do a good job portraying all the intricacies of who I am as a person. If we were going to go a little darker with this film, though, I’d go with LaKeith Stanfield. The way he carries pain and delivers certain emotions is just so good. And then if this feature was in the area of film that I’m in and enjoy making — if it was an indie — I’d have a special choice for the actor. This may seem like a shameless plug, but it’s relevant because this actor has been around my family and myself. He knows about the idiosyncrasies that I have and has that insider knowledge about a person that comes from working together. All that to say, it would be the lead actor from By Deception, Marquis Ransom.

Still from ‘By Deception.’ Courtesy of Deck of Cards Entertainment.

That choice makes sense! And speaking of your family, before we wrap, I’d love to hear your secret for maintaining work/life balance. I’m always especially curious when someone in this fast-paced industry is able to balance their job with being a parent.

I’m going to give you what I hope is the most honest response you’ve received to that query. My wife is in tech, and she and I both normally work from home when I’m not on set. And since our kids are currently doing their schooling at home, it comes down to everyone being in the house. I’d like to give you a more deep, profound answer, but that’s a big part of my work/life balance. We have twin five-year-olds, and if one of the boys comes to me for something, I’ll stop work to attend to what he needs. Or, my wife may tell me it’s time to get off my laptop. I can have tunnel vision when I’m researching or writing a project, which can go on for hours. So, having those breaks throughout the day, as well as hard stops when they pull the plug on work, helps keep things balanced. And spending time with my family refreshes me creatively, as well. I approach life and work the same way — I want to keep things organic. I go with what feels best for my family and for myself. The same thing pertains to storytelling — I never want things to feel forced.

From the youthful inspiration that started Morrison Jr. on his filmmaking journey to how he now manages the career with his role as a family man, this has been a window into the person behind the production. Those interested in learning more about Morrison Jr.’s work can check out the site for his company Deck of Cards Entertainment.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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