Victor Morales, at 6-foot-4, commands attention both on stage as a dramatic actor and in the community as a public information officer for the New York State Police. Morales started his career in law enforcement when he was 25 and working at a local fast-food restaurant. A passion for acting struck the Buffalo native and McKinley High School graduate at 37.
Married with three children, Morales is 56 and lives with his family in North Buffalo, where he is often called a gentle giant. He plans to retire next year after 32 years with the State Police.
In 2013, Morales won an Artie for best supporting actor for his role as mob boss Johnny Friendly in “On the Waterfront” at Subversive Theater. Currently, Morales is in rehearsal for the role of Giles Corey in “The Crucible,” to be performed Oct. 30 to Nov. 22 by American Repertory Theater, 16 Linwood Ave. For more information, visit www.artofwny.org.
People Talk: What do you do best as an actor?
Victor Morales: I love dramatic acting. I love to make people think. I love to make them cry. I love to entrance people and make them forget about their lives and watch the characters unfold before them.
PT: Who is your favorite actor?
VM: Some I love to watch are not necessarily great actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sly Stallone. I enjoy when Jim Carrey gets serious. He’s different. Denzel Washington is fantastic. I’ve been told quite a few times I look like Anthony Quinn. Just to be mentioned in the same breath is kind of cool.
PT: How did you discover the stage?
VM: I met a film actor while recruiting, found out about a film in Rochester and went down, met the director and got hired as a bodyguard. I met Tim White, who was the artistic director for the Buffalo Ensemble Theater. He asked me to audition for the role of Lenny in “Of Mice and Men.”
PT: Your wife and daughters must be your biggest fans.
VM: They attend. They enjoy it. Sometimes they’ll sit front row. I prefer that they don’t because they’re kind of a distraction. When I played Lenny, I locked eyes with my daughter, and I got lost in her face. It was opening night. I snapped right out of it.
PT: What has been your shining moment on stage?
VM: Lenny. Once he dies, you can hear a pin drop. You can hear people sniffling and crying. That felt good. Singing “If I Were a Rich Man” as Tevye. If you do it right, it’s a show stopper.
PT: What peeves you?
VM: There’s a lot of theater companies in Buffalo and few people coming to see the shows. The little theater companies need support. Irish Classical, MusicalFare, Kavinoky. I love working there. But those all have followings. Subversive Theater Co., American Repertory, New Phoenix have small spaces. These smaller companies need public support.
PT: Has the state been a good employer?
VM: I got to do a lot of different things. I’ve been an instructor. I’ve had the opportunity to travel. I spoke to the U.S. Marines on traffic safety. They were having problems with Marines coming home from the Iranian Wars and dying stateside in car accidents. So I created a program and I went to Marine Corps bases in Okinawa, Japan, Hawaii and Washington. I spoke about drunk driving, drowsy driving, aggressive driving, speeding. And I also recruited at the same time.
PT: Did you work on the road?
VM: I worked on the road for part of my career but most of it has been in public relations, which is a good thing because I never did like writing tickets. But it’s my job to enforce vehicle and traffic laws.
PT: Many people think that’s all you do is write tickets.
VM: So many people think all we do is the New York State Thruway. They don’t realize we’re in every county in the state. That’s why the New York State Police was born in 1917 – on the urging of Moyca Newell and Katherine Mayo; I call them the Founding Mothers – because there were no local police forces. They had a couple constables here and there.
PT: What will you do when you retire?
VM: I’d like to get something that’s not law-enforcement related. My daughter is talking about opening a restaurant. You never know, maybe I’ll go to work with her.