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'The Last O.G.' Is 'About Second Chances,' Tracy Morgan Says

Tracy Morgan in <em>The Last O.G.</em> "I'm feeling great, I'm feeling blessed. What's more important for me, is to make sure [my audience is] feeling good<em>,"</em> he tells NPR.
Francisco Roman
Tracy Morgan in The Last O.G. "I'm feeling great, I'm feeling blessed. What's more important for me, is to make sure [my audience is] feeling good," he tells NPR.

Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan has a new show about getting a second chance at life. It's fitting for a man who experienced a second chance of his own — making a remarkable recovery from a horrific traffic accident that left him in a coma.

He was severely injured in the wreck in 2014 in New Jersey. At the time, doctors reportedly weren't sure if he would ever walk or talk again. Morgan's friend James McNair was killed in the accident and three others were also injured.

Sixteen months later though, Morgan was back on TV hosting Saturday Night Live, where he'd performed with the cast for seven years until 2003.

He joked about his recovery: "People were wondering, 'Can he speak? Does he have 100-percent mental capacity?' But the truth is I never did. I may even be a few [IQ ] points higher now."

Now, Morgan is back as a series star for the first time since the end of 30 Rock in 2013. In the new TBS show The Last O.G., Morgan stars as Tray Barker, a man who just got out of prison after serving 15 years. He returns to his old Brooklyn neighborhood, which has dramatically changed since he left.

Morgan says he's had the idea for the show bouncing around for eight years, but it became especially relevant after his own recovery.

"It's about second chances," Morgan tells NPR's Michel Martin on All Things Considered. "And it hit me: If Tracy Morgan can get a second chance, why can't Tray Barker?" Morgan talked with NPR about his health, gentrification, his early experience selling drugs and his return to television.

Interview Highlights

On his current health

I'm feeling great, I'm feeling blessed. What's more important for me, is to make sure [my audience is] feeling good. That's why I do TV; that's why I make people laugh. I want to make sure they feel good too.

On worries that he wouldn't perform again after the accident

Every day. Every day in my wheelchair. It was life or death. You ask me, was I worried about doing TV? I was worrying if I was ever going to walk again. I was worrying about if I was ever going to remember my own name. So it's way deeper than TV. TV was the last thing I was thinking about. ...

I faced death. So of course, you could imagine how I feel now that the show had a successful premiere. I feel great. I feel awesome. But I feel great for everyone else.

On second chances and parallels between his character and his own life

When I was younger, before show business, there was another life. And I did those things and I really didn't want to do them. It's just that crack made it so accessible — the money was right there and I didn't want to be ridiculed. All the kids around me were selling crack and getting money and all that. So I wanted to be a part of it. So everyone did it.

But I always wanted God to forgive me for it. So I'm quite sure Tray Barker doing those 15 years in prison was the same way. "God please forgive me, I was just trying to survive." So he took it upon himself to learn — get better. To do better, because he knew better. Once you know better you can do better.

On gentrification in Brooklyn and other cities

You're talking about displacement. Those are some of the things we're going to have to tackle too. You gotta watch the rest of the episodes. People were displaced with the Barclays Center and all of that. Things are different.

But you know, it's like being a roach. You learn how to survive. That's the first thing you learn in life is survival. Before you live, you gotta survive.

On being back on a TV series for the first time since the accident

It feels good being back to TV. Feels good being back in front of my audience, absolutely. I'm filled with joy. I thank God every day for sparing my life. Just to come back and touch you guys in a funny way.

NPR's Marc Rivers produced the audio of this story for broadcast.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

James Doubek is an associate editor and reporter for NPR. He frequently covers breaking news for NPR.org and NPR's hourly newscast. In 2018, he reported feature stories for NPR's business desk on topics including electric scooters, cryptocurrency, and small business owners who lost out when Amazon made a deal with Apple.