Updated: Apr 28
Photographer: Jayme Thornton @jaymethornton
Makeup: Rebecca Restrepo @rebeccarestrepo at Walter Schupfer Management
Rosenstein @lexirosenstein Izzy Herbert @theblondeizzy
Contributing Editor: Paul Julian Doherty @pauljuliann
NEW YORK — Actress Morgan Dudley throws all her passion into her profession as a stage and now on-screen performer. Morgan is popularly known for her feature in the Tony Award-winning Broadway play Jagged Little Pill. Her role as Frankie Healy gained her widespread acclaim for developing a complex character of identity and family connection. She continues to perform similar roles in projects like Netflix's A Tourist's Guide to Love, available to stream on April 23.
Netflix's A Tourist Guide to Love is Morgan Dudley's latest project. The story follows a travel rep (played by Rachael Leigh Cook) to Vietnam after becoming unexpectedly single. Her story entails a connection between her tour guide and abrupts when her ex comes to visit. ￼Morgan Dudley costars in the international film. The project is the first globally to be shot in Vietnam post-pandemic. Currently in the works is Morgan's highly anticipated role as Ella, the young Cinderella in Disney's The Descendants: The Rise Of Red. An upcoming musical film set as the fourth installment in the franchise.
Morgan Dudley was photographed by Jayme Thornton for an exclusive with IRK magazine. Afterward, our team discussed her creative practice, previous experience, and what's next in her new role.
Dress by Mugler
A Tourist's Guide to Love is in Vietnam. How did you immerse yourself in the culture? Did you get to travel?
Morgan: Filming movies like A Tourist's Guide to Love in Vietnam was an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience. Since the movie features a tour, we were able to visit four different cities and surrounding areas of Vietnam over a couple of months. We saw a lot of beautiful sites because of the film itself, & on our off days, we had access to our Vietnamese PA staff to help us navigate places we were curious about. I was constantly practicing new Vietnamese words, phrases, & sentences with everyone as well as going on impromptu mini trips to explore areas more famous and visited by Vietnamese locals.
We all need a little love and rom-com RN. How did you enjoy shooting this film?
Morgan: I enjoyed the feeling of being with my cast on set. The light-hearted, fun, and family-like air around us made every day genuinely feel like an adventure. It never felt like work. It never felt like we were too severe or rigidly doing a job because we were all genuinely enjoying the atmosphere and each other's company.
Favorite travel spot in VN?
Morgan: This is so tough! Honestly, it's an even tie between Hội An & Hanoi. Hội A was the most peaceful and had the most vacation feel. Every night I was there, you could count on catching me sitting on these beautiful large rocks enjoying the ocean breeze. Hanoi, however, has such a beautiful and walkable layout with lots of shopping, food, and activities such as the water puppet shows. I remember routinely getting bubble tea and walking around this beautiful lake nearby where we were staying. I can't choose between the two!
Dress by Alexandre Vauthier
How is being a part of the Descendants series on Disney Channel?
Morgan: So many moments made filming this Descendants movie a blast. It's hard to choose a favorite moment specifically. Still, something I loved about being on set was slowly coming to understand each other's humor and building our repertoire of inside jokes with each other.
Is there a moment in your career when you knew this was your goal?
Morgan: I had a huge "aha" moment while performing in Jagged Little Pill on Broadway. I vividly remember standing on stage at the end of our first opening week and feeling like, "I never want to do anything else." Being able to continue my career in film work has been such a blessing to me.
What has been your biggest challenge as an actor? As an AA actor?
Morgan: My biggest challenge as an actor has been trusting myself and my decisions with my characters. In my everyday life, I have struggled with anxiety & being an artist has always been an outlet for that. I remember early on in this; however, I was constantly facing myself with a "right" or "wrong" way just to be. But through learning more about the craft and stepping into my voice on a personal level, I've continually made strides into being a more grounded person, & in turn, a more grounded actor.
Do you have a favorite character from the original cast of The Descendants?
Morgan: My favorite character from the original Descendants movies is Uma! China Anne McClain brings such a presence to the screen that it is almost impossible to ignore, so I found myself rooting for the villain that way, haha!
How do you prepare for a role?
Morgan: I always write down my character's life story and motivations to get a feel for who I understand the surface to be. Whether those motivations or stories are in the script or not, it's just beneficial to get every nuance you can immediately grab from the character & jot it down on paper, bringing it to the conscious mind. The rest is then going on to feel what the character is like in your body. How do I stand? How do I carry myself? Etc.
Is there anything you enjoy most about working for Disney?
Morgan: My favorite part of working with Disney is its family aspect! You walk on a set and honestly can tell how happy everyone is to be there and to be a part of the magic that is a Disney musical. We're all very aware of what a blessing it is and how everybody treats one another.
What is your favorite Disney character? If you could star in any Disney movie, what would it be?
Morgan: This is an impossible question, honestly. There are so many great characters to choose from! I have always been a Bambi lover, so for this, I'm going to go with Bambi. But if I could do any Disney movie, it would be Tangled! The music is so pretty, and Rapunzel is such a fun princess.
Do you have a role that you aspire to play?
Morgan: My dream roles that already exist are Eurydice in Hadestown or Ti Moune in Once on This Is Island. I am a musical girl at heart. However, I would love to play in a movie involving zombies or post-apocalyptic creatures! I never get enough of watching those sorts of things, so getting to help create a project like that would fulfill me immensely.
Who is your inspiration, and how have they influenced your career?
Morgan: Someone who has inspired me throughout my career thus far is Zendaya. I grew up watching and feeling represented by her, and seeing her blossom in her career and achieve as much as she has as a young black woman in the industry gives me a lot of inspiration in my journey. There are so many actors I look up to, though! Amandla Stenberg, Keke Palmer, & Meryl Streep to name a few.
What is your favorite part about acting?
Morgan: My favorite part of acting is stepping into skins and experiences that I otherwise would never be in. Acting is all about conveying the human condition, and a way to do that is first having genuine empathy for the character you're portraying and then stepping into their life as if it was as accurate as your own. With that comes a lot of self-reflection and inner work because you have to be comfortable being vulnerable in the good, bad, & ugly emotions and situations. It's a beautiful expression of art that I love and greatly respect.
What movies, tv shows, and songs inspire you the most?
Morgan: Omg! My favorite movie of all time is and will forever be Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, but as far as current movies, I enjoy The Menu! My favorite TV show as of right now is Boys Over Flowers, but a favorite SONG? Impossible. My favorite song today is Heated from Beyoncé's Renaissance album.
Do you have any advice for young actresses like yourself? Artists? Designers?
Morgan: The best advice I can give is to be okay with rejection and failure & know neither defines you as an artist. Your unique experiences and expression of self perfectly wrap up what you bring to the table. As artists, we're going to have rejection, we're going to be told no, and there are going to be moments where we try something new, and it doesn't work, and on top of it, we're our most vulnerable selves! But there is something meant for everyone who wants to pursue this craft as long as you don't give up and continue to do your best and know your worth.
Dress by Bibhu Mohapatra
Our Sustainability and Positive Impact Director has a partnership with the United Nations, and we at IRK all work together to align change-makers, companies, and global change-makers with positive impact.
What are some conscious actions you implement in your daily life?
Morgan: Making conscious lifestyle changes can be simple! And since learning more about how I can individually help out my environment, I've been one by one implanting permanent habits that give me more peace of mind and hope for the future. I live in New York, so public transportation is accessible to me & I take full advantage! I've also habitually always carried 1-2 reusable totes when I go out just in case I stop anywhere for groceries or figure I need something while I'm out. Recycling is an absolute MUST, so I have a separate bin in my home for that, & I'm currently cutting down on impulse-buying items I don't see myself using for an extended period.
What's your hope for the future of the planet?
Morgan: My hope for the planet's future starts with us as a people gathering together to move towards more sustainable ways of living & demanding our governments to find alternative environmental-friendly ways to gather resources. If we take that action together, we can begin to see change and improvements happening in real-time & potentially save our planet from rapid damage.
What are you most passionate about (concerning caring for people and the planet)?
Morgan: I'm very passionate about respecting nature and practicing humanity. If we can learn to have genuine compassion for the people around us, the environment, and the world we leave behind for future generations, working towards a better planet will come naturally and with a sense of urgency because we'll have absolute respect for the cause.
What Sustainable Development Goal do you align with the most?
Morgan: I am very passionate about affordable and clean energy as well as sustainable communities, & responsible consumption and production. Goals 7,11, & 12.
Thornton, is a NYC based fashion photographer with editorial and advertising clients worldwide.