‘Bull’ star Geneva Carr shares her worst stage moment
In life, the deck is usually stacked. But in TV, you can escape that feeling for an hour or so with the CBS legal drama “Bull,” where a sense of fair play is a bedrock of the show’s ethos. The trial consulting firm, led by Michael Weatherly’s psychologist Jason Bull, has a bevy of high-end experts on staff, including the unflappable Marissa Morgan, a veteran of the Department of Homeland Security and a neurolinguistics expert. And she’s played by Geneva Carr, wearing one of the best wardrobes on TV right now.
“Bull” pulls in big numbers for CBS with its mix of humor and its courtroom setting, and for Carr it’s her first long-term TV role. A Tony-nominated stage and TV actress, she said there’s a “work ethic to the theater that absolutely serves television because I never think I have another take. Television is so fastpaced, you can’t ask for one anyway. Once they get what they need, they’re moving on.”
“The one thing about being an actor is, you cannot have any pride because your career ebbs and it flows, it goes up and down, you are constantly embarrassed and you have to roll with it,” she said. “I don’t have any ego, on set or off.”
Example: “I used to dress up as Tweety bird, you want to talk humiliating? And Tweety bird really suffered, I’m just going to say that. You have to be under 5-foot, 4-inches to fit into the costume and it’s hot as bejesus in there. I used to work at the Javits Center (conventional hall in New York) to make money, and I’d go around in character and shake children’s hands at the auto show or whatever. I don’t want to tell you the stories because they’re terrifying.
“But,” she said, “that’s not even my most embarrassing story!”
Her worst moment: “When I was first acting, I was in an off-Broadway play and I had some very experienced actors around me. The one that saved me that day was Rob Sedgwick, who is Kyra Sedgwick’s brother. He’s a great guy and a fantastic actor and we were doing this play called ‘The Weather box’ that’s very dramatic. It’s about three siblings who are estranged and their mother is on her deathbed in the hospital. And there’s a scene where I’m arguing with my brother in the kitchen and I have to threaten his life with this knife that I just see on the table!
“In the scene, I’m supposed to come out and give a piece of my mind to my brother and tell him how I felt about him — and I realize, there’s no knife on the table. The prop is missing. And Rob and I look at each other and I’m like a deer in the headlights and I’m trying to remember my lines and emote and live it all and I’m terrified! And the line’s coming up where I have to threaten his life with this nonexistent knife, and right before I had to do something — and he knew I just didn’t know what to do — he turned to me and said, ‘Don’t you try to threaten my life with that book!’
“So I picked up this book — and by the way, he’s this 6-foot, 3-inch muscle-bound man — and, like, 110 pounds of me is trying to threaten his life with a book, it was unbelievable! I’m sure the audience was thinking, ‘How does this woman think she’s going to kill her brother with this book?’
But Rob really saved me, and we have laughed about it for years. He was so great, because I wasn’t experienced enough to just live in the moment but he was. So he taught me a lot, about being present and making it work no matter what.”
The takeaway: “You learn No. 1: Check your props. You have to verify that your props are on a table in the wings because there are stagehands that bring them to the set between scenes. Now I make sure everything’s where it needs to be.
“And you learn No. 2: When you are on stage you are in battle, and the people you work with have your back.”
Geneva Carr as Marissa Morgan on the CBS series, "Bull."