Morgan Harrell from Columbus in ‘A Jazzman’s Blues’ on Netflix

Columbus resident Morgan Harrell, center, is a dancer in the film

Columbus resident Morgan Harrell, center, is a dancer in the Netflix film “A Jazzman’s Blues”. The film was written and directed by Tyler Perry, left, and choreographed by Debbie Allen, right.

When the Tyler Perry movie “Blues A JazzmanStarting September 23 streaming on Netflix, Columbus resident Morgan Harrell will be making popcorn, watching with his parents, Barbie and Dr. Kenneth Harrell, and celebrated what he considered a “sacred moment.”

That’s because Harrell not only appears as a juke-joint dancer in this film written and directed by Perry and choreographed by Debbie Allen, but she believes faith and divine intervention helped her accept the role three years after being mortally wounded, it’s unclear if she will dance. at the elite level again.

In addition to the support from his parents, “I want to thank God first and Tyler and Debbie and all my educators for putting their faith in me,” Harrell told the Ledger-Enquirer.

“I’m broken”

Harrell, 26, was born and raised in Columbus. She attended preschool at Pinehurst Christian, elementary school at Britt David and Clubview, secondary school at Richards and graduated from Northside High School in 2014. She earned her bachelor’s degree in dance from Kennesaw State University in 2019.

It was the same year he had a car accident, being hit from behind by another vehicle. The collision tore his left bicep and threatened his dancing career. Apart from performing, she teaches dance classes and establishes Faithestheticsa faith-based choreography company.

“I’m devastated,” he said. “…I almost quit.”

Dr. John Waldrop fixed his arm, then months of rehab at the Hughston Clinic helped him recover from surgery. He praised them for “giving me a second chance.”

“God prepared me”

Then, on December 4, 2020, Harrell said, “God told me to print a picture of Tyler Perry.”

It seemed pretty random, but Harrell put the picture on his vision board and looked at it for inspiration as he did his rehab exercises at home. He also prints the logo Perry’s studio in Atlanta and put the picture in his Bible. And he listened to Perry’s motivational speeches, including one about bury the bible at the base of a soundstage built on his 330-acre estate, former Fort McPherson.

“I feel like God prepared me for this role,” says Harrell.

The opportunity came in April 2021, when his agent informed him of auditioning for a dancing role in a film—look, written and directed by Perry.

“Oh my God,” he thought. “…God ​​told me about this.”

Netflix says “Forbidden love story and family drama uncovers 40 years of secrets and lies to the juke-joint blues soundtrack in the Deep South.”

IMDB says The plot involves an unsolved murder investigation that uncovers deception and secrets. The cast includes Joshua Boone (“Downtown Girls,” “MacGyver” and “Law & Order: SVU”) and Solea Pfeiffer (“Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Scandal” and “The Good Fight) in the lead roles, along with Amirah Vann, Ryan Eggold and Austin Scott.

“Wow. He got it.”

Harrell had only two days to prepare for the audition. He doubted whether he had recovered enough from his injury and surgery.

But when he learned that Allen would be choreographing for the film, Harrell remembered meeting him at an intensive dance training session in Atlanta when he was a student at Kennesaw. Even though they didn’t speak to each other at the time, Harrell still received impressive communication from Allen.

“He gave me a look like, ‘Wow. He understands,” said Harrell.

Connecting the dots — from believing that God told him to print Perry’s photo, to feeling the affirmation of Allen’s views — Harrell allowed his conviction to rise above his doubts and decided to give it a try.

“I am surprised”

Allen greeted Harrell at the audition and said, “Nice to see you again.”

Harrell thought, “That means God is real, and I was actually meant to do this.”

After a callback for another audition and two weeks of not hearing the results, Harrell was eating at Chipotle in Columbus when an email from a casting partner offered him the role to be one of about 30 dancers in the film out of more than 200 dancers trying out.

Harrell wept with tears of joy and gratitude.

“I was surprised,” he said. “I’m numb. I can’t believe it.”

He’s survived through his accidents, his surgeries, his rehab, his doubts—and because he wasn’t selected for any roles in about 20 trials with other productions.

“When you’ve been through so much, so much rejection in your life, you become hopeless,” she says. “…I learned to follow your instincts. Go with your gut. When your intestines move, that’s God speaking to you.”

“Like Annie living with Warbucks”

Filming took place over two weeks in May 2021. The cast and crew were quarantined at Perry’s property amid the COVID pandemic. Despite frequent coronavirus testing and constant wearing of masks between filmings, Harrell enjoyed the experience.

“It was like Annie was living with Warbucks,” he said. “…It feels like a dream. It feels so real because it made history, a Columbus woman living in the land of Tyler Perry. … Some days, I cry and say, ‘Oh my God, are you sure I deserve this?’ … It was very hot, but we are so grateful and so blessed. The crew treated us very well.”

Harrell said Perry was very respectful and kind.

“Tyler deserves all his blessings,” he said. “He was inspiring When I recovered from my surgery, listen the story is about how he was desperate — for years, people doubted him, and people laughed at him, but he continued — God blessed him with an opportunity. Looks like I passed God’s test too.”

Harrell said Allen was “just a legend. He directed me about how my character should be, how to walk, how to have that presence in the room. … Being in the same room as Debbie Allen and taking notes and learning and becoming a better dancer, it changed my life.”

In addition to working with Perry and Allen, Harrell was drawn to the role because of the film’s story and era.

“I wanted to really imagine what life was like in the 1930s,” he said. “What did my ancestors go through during this period? … What is it about jazz and blues that really contributes to history?”

Harrell notes the similarities between the film’s themes and the journey. The message from both, he said, was to “go where your heart is.”

“Hard work finally paid off”

September 11, when the film debuted on Toronto International Film FestivalHarrell won the Best Director award at the WIFTA (Women in Film and Television Atlanta) Short Film Showcase 2022. She described the film, “Sable,” as “choreopoem that describes apathetic dialogue”.

The juxtaposition of the two moments, says Harrell, prompted him to think “my hard work has finally paid off. … I feel like it was all meant to be.”

This role has enhanced his resume and led to others. Harrell said he couldn’t be specific, but he’s in three more productions and will be teaching Atlanta dance master classes about his experiences in the film. Tickets are available on the website, Faithesthetics.com.

Harrell enjoyed dancing because it was spiritual to him.

“When you dance,” he says, “it takes away your worries.”

Main career goal?

“Live honestly using my gifts from God to inspire the world through dance,” she said. “…Dreams come true, only if you put God first.”

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Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other youth-related issues. He also writes feature stories on topics of interest. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter of a century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.

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