TV on DVD: 'Seinfeld' star Phil Morris talks about playing father and son with his famous dad in 'Mission: Impossible -- The Complete Television Collection'
Like father, like son. While most TV viewers know him best as Jackie Chiles, the Johnny Cochran-ish lawyer who was repeatedly humiliated by Kramer on "Seinfeld," one of actor Phil Morris's first big roles was playing a TV spy who'd also been played by his father two decades earlier.
Both Morrises -- son Phil and father Greg -- are front and center in Paramount Home Video's massive new DVD box set "Mission: Impossible -- The Complete Television Collection," a 56-disc box that includes all seven seasons of the original 1966-73 CBS drama, as well as both seasons of the 1988-90 ABC revival series.
Greg Morris starred as electronics guru Barney Collier in the "M:I" series that launched the franchise (and inspired nearly every other spy-themed series and movie that came after it), while Phil Morris, who'd grown up visiting his father on the set of the original show, auditioned to play Barney in the remake, won the role, and then saw his character rewritten as Barney's son, Grant Collier.
"The Complete Television Collection" set includes an archived interview with the late Greg Morris as well as a behind-the-scenes featurette with never-before-seen interviews with Morris co-stars Peter Graves, Martin Landau, and Barbara Bain; episode and series promos; and an "M:I" photo montage set to a vocal version of the iconic theme song, performed by the Kane Triplets.
The DVD collection's packaging is also among the year's coolest: It's shaped like a stick of dynamite -- complete with fuse -- which opens up to reveal the nearly five dozen discs.
In between his busy acting and voiceover schedule -- including roles on everything from "Hot in Cleveland" and "Shake It Up!" to "Green Lantern: The Animated Series" and "Ultimate Spider-Man," as well as a cheeky Web series called "Shelf Life" and new episodes of the TV One comedy "Love That Girl!" -- Phil Morris talked to Yahoo! TV about the unusual way the "M:I" revival made it to ABC's schedule, what it was like working with his father, and how his childhood playgrounds were the " Brady Bunch" and "Star Trek" sets.
The "M:I" revival came about because of a writers' strike in Hollywood?
Yes, and because of that, the network had to come up with a show that translated for modern audiences, without changing a word. "Mission: Impossible" filled the bill. We heard they were going into production and were very excited about it, but I didn't have a clue whether or not they would see me. I didn't know if they thought it would be too on the nose (to cast me to play the role my father had played).
All of my friends -- at the time we were all young struggling actors -- were going in (to audition) for the role of Barney Collier. They would call me after the audition, and be like, "I did OK, but when are you going in?" I'd say, "I haven't gotten a call yet."
They had this incredible opportunity, to have you play the role your father had played, and weren't even considering it? But the call finally came.
One day the call came in, and they said I had an appointment, so I went in and did my thing and the casting people liked it. Then they sent me to the studio. ... They liked it. ... Then I went to the network and ultimately ended up getting [the part], but it was through the normal audition channels, like everyone else. Nobody was looking for me. I didn't make a hot and heavy attempt to try to grease the wheels and say, "Hey, look at me. My last name is Morris." It was very normal, and then when I got it, it was not normal at all, of course.
I literally got the role as Barney Collier. They were still [working] under the writers' strike, and they couldn't change anything, so I literally got cast as Barney. When the strike broke, which was right after [everyone] was cast, then they made me, in their infinite wisdom, the son of Barney, which was a role I had been preparing for my whole life. (Laughs)
Your dad is such a beloved star of the original series. He must have been thrilled to see you in this role.
When I got it, he was thrilled ... yelling up and down and screaming. We both knew it was a one-in-a-billion shot to get anything, and then to get this. That they would do "Mission: Impossible" again, that I would be an actor, that I would be of a certain age that was appropriate. ... It was kismet in a way, and he was thrilled. I don't know if I heard him be that excited about anything that I've done, ever. It was really a proud moment for both of us and something really special.