Classic Television Memories: African-Americans In 1960's Television - Greg Morris (Mission:Impossible)
For African-American actors and actresses, 1960's television liberated them from the stereotyped subservient roles that prevailed in movies from the preceding eras. No more were they viewed as buffoons, mammies, train porters, servants, etc, but their roles had evolved, putting them in more meaningful, dignified roles alongside their white counterparts, even against the backdrop of racism that still exists in Hollywood today.
The focus of this and other hubs in this series are on the accomplishments these thespians brought not only to the entertainment industry, but first and foremost, advancing the image of a people.
Best known for his role as electronics expert Barney Collier in the hit TV series Mission:Impossible (1966-1973), Greg Morris was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1933. He was active in the theater and hosted a jazz radio program while in college.
His earliest television role was on a 1963 episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show, in which Rob felt their babies were switched at birth. Recently during a promo on METV for his show, Van Dyke stated that episode got the most laughs of any in the series.
That's My Boy??
During this period, he also appeared in The Twiight Zone, and Ben Casey. In 1966, he was part of an ensemble cast as IMF agent and electronics expert Barney Collier in Mission:Impossible. This cast included Steven Hill, Barbara Bain, Martin Landau, and Peter Lupus. Morris and Lupus were the only actors to remain with the show until its cancellation in 1973.
After Mission, he went on the guest on many television shows until eventually winning the role of Lt. David Nelson on Vegas! (1978-1981), starring the late Robert Urich . Morris also reprised his role as Collier in the short-lived update of Mission:Impossible (1988-1989).
He also appeared on three episodes of The Jeffersons, and the sitcom What's Happening?
Greg Morris died in 1996 of brain cancer. Before he died, he had a chance to see the theatrical version of Mission:Impossible with Tom Cruise. He called it "an abomination".
Morris leaves behind his wife and three children, which included actor Phil Morris.