Born January 29, 1969, in Cincinnati, OH; daughter of Stanley (a Bible scholar) and Joyce (an insurance agent) Morris. Education: Attended Temple University, early 1990s.
Addresses: Office —c/o Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), 51 W. 52nd St., New York, NY 10019.
Actress on television, including: Long Road Home (movie), 1991; Oldest Living Confederate Widow
Tells All (movie), 1994; A Friend to Die For (movie), 1994; Family Values (movie), 1995; Pensacola: Wings of Gold, CBS, 1998; Inherit the Wind (movie), 1999; Hell Swarm (movie), 2000; And Never Let Her Go (movie), 2001; Cold Case, CBS, 2003—. Also appeared in episodes of Murder, She Wrote, Poltergeist: The Legacy, Xena: Warrior Princess, Providence, and The Mind of the Married Man. Film appearances include: Cool as Ice, 1991; Sleepstalker, 1995; As Good as It Gets, 1997; Deterrence, 1999; Screenplay, 1999; The Contender, 2000; Role of a Lifetime, 2001; Minority Report, 2002; Hostage, 2002; Paycheck, 2003; Mindhunters, 2004;
After years of small film roles and made-for-television movies, Kathryn Morris found herself one of prime time's newest stars in 2003 as Detective Lilly Rush on the CBS drama Cold Case. In it, Morris played a dedicated Philadelphia cop with an uncanny ability to solve the city's most challenging murders from the "Unsolved" file cabinet, and her
Born in 1969 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Morris grew up in Connecticut as the youngest of three children in the family. Her father, Stanley, was divorced from her insurance-agent mother, Joyce, the year Morris turned six. She and her siblings lived with their father, a Bible scholar who formed a family gospel act they dubbed Morris Code. They sang at church functions and weddings, eventually even touring the country. Active in theater during her high school years, Morris enrolled in a small Christian college after graduation, and later transferred to Temple University in Philadelphia. When a faculty strike at the school delayed the start of her senior year, she headed to Hollywood. "I took a Greyhound bus with two suitcases and $60 all the way to California," she recalled in an interview with Philadelphia Inquirer writer David Hiltbrand.
On her way to her first professional job one day in 1990, Morris was the victim of a hit-and-run automobile accident, and though she had whiplash from the impact, she showed up to dance in the Japanese music video anyway. The next decade was a struggle to break into the business, however, and for a time she made ends meet by working on a cruise ship as a dancing waitress. Her first television role was in a made-for-television movie, Long Road Home, in 1991, a story about farmers during the Dust Bowl environmental crisis of the 1930s. Her feature film-debut came that same year in Cool as Ice, a teen-angst drama that starred rapper Vanilla Ice.
Morris appeared in several television-series pilots that were never picked up for a full season. After a slew of made-for-TV movies, she landed a recurring role on the CBS series Pensacola: Wings of Gold, as Lieutenant Annalisa "Stinger" Lindstrom for several months in 1998. A year later, she appeared as the villainous Najara on the cult-favorite series Xena: Warrior Princess. Her breakout role came in the 2000 feature film, The Contender, as a special agent involved in a political scandal involving Joan Allen's character, the U.S. vice presidential nominee. "Morris makes a big impression as an FBI investigator," asserted San Francisco Chronicle critic Bob Graham in his review of the film. "She may appear ingenuous, but her interviewing technique is sharklike."
Morris went on to a part in the 2001 Steven Spielberg sci-fi thriller Artificial Intelligence: AI, but her scenes were edited out of the final cut. "I felt if I got hit by a bus," Morris told People about learning of the excision, but refused to consider it a career setback. "I was okay with it because I got to work with Steven Spielberg," she concluded. Spielberg felt so bad about leaving her scenes out that he cast her in his next film, Minority Report, with Tom Cruise.
It was her work in The Contender that led to Morris's greatest career triumph: producers of a new crime drama, Cold Case, chose her for the lead role of Lilly Rush based on her appearance in the film. As series creator Meredith Stiehm told Jill Feiwell in Daily Variety, "We knew she was the one before there was ever a meeting. Six executives, including myself, watched a tape of her in The Contender, and she played that character exactly the way we envisioned Rush would be—cunning and direct."
Cold Case debuted on the CBS network's prime-time schedule in the fall of 2003. Morris' character was a Philadelphia cop with a reputation for being able to solve long-dormant cases. As the lone female detective on the Philadelphia homicide squad, Rush works with partner Scotty Valens (Danny Pino) and other colleagues to solve difficult cases in which the trail of clues had led nowhere for the original investigating cops. The episodes feature flashback storylines to the date of the crime, such as the murder of a college athlete back in the 1960s that Rush suspects was a gay hate crime.
Despite being given somewhat of a graveyard slot on Sunday nights, Cold Case scored impressive ratings in its first season, which tallied into the highest ratings for any new drama for the 2003-04 television year. It even did well during its second season, pulling nearly 17 million viewers weekly, though ABC's Desperate Housewives quickly emerged as the time slot's ratings winner. Morris' intuitive crime-solver earned praise from critics, and the actress enjoyed playing her. The character became known for her somewhat unkempt hair, but as Morris explained to Hiltbrand in the Philadelphia Inquirer, it was all part of the character. "She's a woman who eats real food and doesn't have a $500 hair-color job," Morris said. "Sometimes her roots are showing and sometimes her outfit isn't completely together. That's a character that has been missing from television."
Morris was slated to appear in Resurrecting the Champ, a 2007 boxing drama with Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Hartnett and directed by Rod Lurie, who also helmed The Contender. Her primary job remained Cold Case, however, and she learned rather quickly how well-liked the show was, as she told the Philadelphia Inquirer. During the first season, she went to New York City as the holidays neared. "I was thinking, 'I'll take a break. No one knows about my show,'" she told Hiltbrand. "I was trying to do this last-minute Christmas shopping frenzy, but everyone wanted to come up and talk about Lilly Rush."
Daily Variety, June 11, 2004, p. A14.
Detroit Free Press, August 27, 2004.
People, November 10, 2003, p. 104.
Philadelphia Inquirer, January 29, 2004.
San Francisco Chronicle, October 13, 2000.
— Carol Brennan