Tracy Morgan believes in second chances. “For me, I got a second chance at life, I got a second chance at love, I got a second chance at show business and a career,” Morgan told IndieWire. The comedian returns to series TV on Tuesday night with TBS’ “The Last O.G.,” his first major role since recovering from a horrific automobile accident in 2014.
“And this time I’m going to do it right,” Morgan said. “I wanted to do TV the way it should be done.” Morgan plays Tray, an ex-con who is released after 15 years in prison and realizes the world has changed, from his now gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood to his ex-girlfriend Shay (Tiffany Haddish), who’s now married to a white man (Ryan Gaul). An even bigger shocker: Shay is raising two teens — who turn out to be Tray’s kids, whom he didn’t know even existed. Cedric the Entertainer also stars, as the leader of the halfway house where Tray lives.
It’s perhaps the biggest departure yet for both Morgan and Cedric, two comedians who have never starred in a show that mixed so much drama with its comedy.
“The same thing that makes you laugh will make you cry,” Morgan said. “We wanted to do it real. It’s about growth. You’re seeing Cedric in a different light, you’re seeing Tiffany in a different light, you’re seeing Tracy in a different light. We’re showing chops on this one.”
Cedric said he believed the story of “The Last O.G.” hadn’t been explored before like this on television. “This story is a great tale of redemption and hope,” he said. “Tray knows he can be somebody, he’s just looking for his lane now. That redemption, that fight to be a good guy and not slip back to what’s comfortable, that’s what this is about.”
Added Morgan: “We all know those people.”
“The Last O.G.” had its own unique journey to television. Morgan had been developing a comedy at FX with the “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” team in 2014 when he was hurt in the crash that left him in a coma and killed his friend James “Jimmy Mack” McNair.
That project was scrapped, and after a lengthy rehabilitation period, Morgan had recovered enough by 2016 to begin working on a new project with Jordan Peele, John Carcieri, Eric and Kim Tannenbaum, and Joel Zadak. But FX later passed on the pilot, and TBS stepped in, giving the show a straight-to-series order.
“This is not about the accident,” Morgan said. “I’m very happy with everyone I get a chance to work with, and we’re painting the exact picture that we want to. The ultimate thing is all lives matter and everyone deserves a second chance. And this show is about redemption. Even those guys in the halfway house. It’s tragic, but there’s also that light in there. You root for those guys in there. That’s what I wanted.”
Morgan and Cedric had only casually known each other prior to “The Last O.G.,” but the show brought them closer together, as the two veterans felt protective of their young co-stars. That extended cast includes Allen Maldonado, Taylor Mosby, and Dante Hoagland. “We set a tone, me and my man Ced,” Morgan said.
Said Cedric: “Tracy’s comeback is something that’s special to him, it means something to him, and he’s in an environment where it’s all love. From the moment you do makeup to the moment to wrap, music is playing, people are barbecuing, it’s like a family reunion on the set. And to have Tiffany on there and Jordan Peele be a part of it, we’re fortunate and blessed.”
Speaking of Haddish, Morgan has big dreams to work with the rising superstar on the big screen as well. Asked what movie or TV show he’d love to remake, Morgan is quick with an answer: “Bustin’ Loose,” the 1981 film starring Richard Pryor and Cicely Tyson.
“Those kids fixed him,” Morgan said of the movie’s central conceit. “He’s a con, he’s a hustler. Surrounded him with some wayward kids, and they ended up fixing him. One thing they had in common, they both loved those kids. I’d love to do it with Tiffany Haddish. She could play Cicely Tyson’s role, I can see it!”
“The Last O.G.” premieres Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. ET on TBS.