But that performance proved to be a life-changing experience for Morgan Alexandria Williams, who shares the screen with the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Sabotage,” a film now in theaters about members of an elite drug task force who find themselves targeted after they rob a drug cartel safe house.
The South Cobb High School graduate, whose stage name is Morgan Alexandria, has started to attract the attention of casting agents with her supermodel looks and petite frame. She has appeared in an episode of the CW series, “The Originals,” a spinoff of “The Vampire Diaries” and has more work lined up.
She recently landed a role in a Black Entertainment Television made-for-television film, which will film soon in North Carolina.
“I can honestly say it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Williams said Friday at her Austell home.
When she stepped on stage at her second-grade Black History Month program to recite the lengthy Maya Angelou poem, “Still I Rise,” Williams didn’t even know what she was doing would be called acting.
“I got on stage for the first time and I was just like, ‘What is this called?’” Williams said. “I asked my teacher and she said it was acting. I knew that was what I wanted to do.”
While attending middle school, Williams auditioned for every play she could and was cast into lead roles. By the age of 16, Williams had a contract with her first agency.
“That was the beginning of it all,” Williams said.
‘Blessed’ to have movie roles
Williams has two ideal roles in mind for her future. She’d like to play the part of a black woman who overcame struggles in the early part of the 20th century.
But she’d also like to take on the role of a strong black woman who leads a hardcore action film. It’s rare, she said, for black women to lead blockbuster action flicks.
For her role in “Sabotage,” Williams plays a waitress at a strip club, which was filmed at an Atlanta club called the Foxy Lady Longue. What was originally written to be a minor role grew once Williams stepped on set and found the favor of David Ayer, the film’s director.
“He was just like, ‘Play with it, Morgan,’” Williams said. “Mind you, I’m on set with Terrance Howard and Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
Williams concedes her part is still a small role in the film, but she now shares credits with some big Hollywood stars.
Though some might look down on her for accepting the role of a waitress at a strip club, Williams said she tries not to judge characters before stepping into their shoes.
“I’m a Christian, but I will play any type of role if I feel like there’s a story to be told,” Williams said.
Once the movie premiered, Williams and Buckner joined a group of friends and family to watch the movie in a local theater.
“It was a surreal moment for me,” Williams said. “I don’t think I can put it into words. The only word I can say is ‘blessed.’”
Mother: Prayers are daily
Her mother, Jennifer Buckner, beamed with pride Friday as she excitedly recalled the first time she flipped through television channels to land on the episode of “The Originals” featuring her daughter.
“It’s overwhelming because I know this is her passion,” Buckner said.
Buckner wasn’t always sold on the idea of her only child pursuing a career as an actress and tried to push Williams toward a more stable profession.
“Literally nothing worked,” Buckner said. “She’s so passionate. I said, ‘OK. I give up. I support you.’”
Williams did take four years off from auditioning for her next big role to attend Albany State University, where she earned a degree in mass communication while participating in the college’s theater ensemble.
Still, Buckner worries about the rejection and heartbreak her daughter could face while trying to climb the ladder to fame.
“The industry is cold,” Buckner said. “That’s why I pray. My prayers are daily for her.”
Since returning from college, Williams has spent her time learning how to navigate the entertainment industry with the help of People Store, her Atlanta-based agency.
“That’s one thing they don’t teach you, even if you major in theater,” Williams said. “You don’t understand the industry.”
Williams plans to spend the next two years in Atlanta gaining more roles, but said she eventually wants to move to Los Angeles to further her career.
She’ll spend this summer studying in New York City under The Barrow Group, an acting school that has trained stars such as Anne Hathaway.