The ISO of 'Hollywood South' 

by Benjamin Rubenstein

Pictured, right: Immigration Services Officer Wayne Morgan (middle) in “The Dukes of Hazzard” (2005) with Seann William Scott (left) and Johnny Knoxville (right).

Six-foot, 300-pound Immigration Services Officer Wayne Morgan at the New Orleans Field Office says he looked like a member of the mafia as he stood in line dressed in black for a casting call for Dreamer near his residence in Mandeville, Louisiana, in 2004. He hoped to get his two young daughters, Taylor and Michael, in the movie and instead was himself offered to be a paid extra.


One day later he and his friend waited to see Glory Road being filmed at LSU’s basketball court when a member of the film crew approached Morgan, looked him up and down, and handed him a paper offering another paid gig, this time with a speaking line. That made him eligible for the Screen Actors Guild, for which he is still a member.

Though at the time he was a security assistant for the Department of the Navy, that weekend spurred Morgan into taking a chance on a second career. He partnered with an attorney and they began the film production company Upperline Entertainment. Morgan also founded the HURD (Helping You Reach Dreams) Casting Network and the nonprofit Louisiana Produces, which promotes film and television projects in Louisiana. Morgan has hosted monthly Louisiana Produces meetings at the same Indian restaurant since late 2004 with as few as 12 and as many as 560 attendees. “We held them through Katrina, everything, we consistently stayed there.”

Pictured, left: Morgan working as a bodyguard for models from the Monaco Grand Prix at the VIP Room in Monaco, May 2014.

Morgan next acted in the film Just My Luck, which released in 2006, starring Lindsay Lohan. Morgan befriended Lohan’s bodyguard on set and when her bodyguard left for a family emergency, he asked Morgan to protect Lohan for one week since Morgan had previously been a police officer. “One week” turned into the remaining months of their shoot, and later to France and Disney World with her.

“You think downtown Bourbon Street with Mardi Gras is big?” Morgan said. “Cheerleader events with teenage girls and Lohan [at Disney World] blow that away. Trying to be moved by 100 little 13 year olds getting autographs – I’d much rather take the drunken New Orleanians anytime.”

Pictured, right: Morgan working as a bodyguard for Paris Hilton in May 2015 at the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France.

Through Just My Luck Morgan met Johnny Knoxville and landed a speaking role in The Dukes of Hazzard, which released in 2005. Morgan’s connections and offers piled up. For two weeks each year he works as a bodyguard at the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France. At the festival this year, while protecting Paris Hilton at a party at Leonardo DiCaprio’s house, Morgan thought, Oh my gosh, how is this guy from Oregon doing this? 

Morgan grew up in Eugene, Oregon. While in the Navy, which he joined on his 18th birthday, he learned about the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He attended a naval prep school and later got accepted into the Naval Academy. Morgan is a member of the class of 1998.

 

Pictured, left: Morgan at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1994.

He and his family moved around, from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, back to Oregon, back to Myrtle Beach, and finally to Mandeville. Then the movies began. During film shoots he took annual leave from his job at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, located at the Mississippi–Louisiana border. When Morgan exhausted his leave he says he “took a leap of faith. At this time I had my wife and three girls. I quit the government job for one year to focus on my film businesses. Then I had to take a job as a police officer. I reapplied for the government and worked as a security assistant for the Army Corps of Engineers from 2009-2011, then applied to USCIS and joined in 2011.”

Pictured: (from left) Morgan; John Swider, director; Jim Jackson, executive producer; Festival South representative; and Murray Roth, cofounder of Upperline Entertainment, at the Festival South Film Expo for their film “1959” on Memorial Day weekend in 2015, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. 

Even if Upperline Entertainment’s latest film 1959 becomes a blockbuster, Morgan says he would remain at USCIS. “The government has been good to me and taken care of me and my family. The best thing about my job is showing up at the [naturalization] ceremonies. I try to greet all the people, try to learn. I say, ‘Where are you from?’ I try to say hello in their language. Then I’ll say, ‘I’m from Oregon. Want to know how you say hello where I’m from? Howdy.’”
Benjamin Rubenstein is a writer and editor in the Office of Communications and also teaches USCIS Plain Language Training. He writes about health and extraordinary people, and he loves pomegranates.

 

 

© 2012 United States Naval Academy Alumni Association & Foundation