You’ve gotten to know Tom Morris Jr. as an analyst on Live PD, but he may have already been a familiar face from his years as a senior correspondent and producer for America’s Most Wanted (AMW). He’s come full circle with his new gig, hosting Live PD: Wanted.
A&E Real Crime spoke with Morris about his unexpected career path and how he landed as the host of a third show that brings together TV viewers and the law enforcement.
How did your career first get off the ground?
I started in college as a news writer—an intern—at a local ABC affiliate, in Norfolk, Virginia. I went to D.C. right out of college, into the White House press corps. Initially I was a courier, running video tapes from the crews at the White House and on the Hill back to the National Press Building, to the Bureau.
I learned how to do audio while I was hanging out in the field with those crews, waiting for press conferences and hearings to end. Then I became a field man, and eventually I became a camera man.
Years before ‘Live PD,’ you were a producer and correspondent on ‘America’s Most Wanted.‘ How did that come about?
My wife and I were visiting a friend in Bethesda, Maryland back in the spring of ’93. As we were walking out, my wife remarked about the neighbor’s yard—his landscaping. And our friend said [about the neighbor], ‘Oh, yeah, he’s the executive producer of ‘America’s Most Wanted.”
I said, ‘Really! Do you know him? I happen to have my resume in the car.’ I gave it to him and three weeks later, ‘America’s Most Wanted’ called and gave me a double homicide case to produce [a segment for] in East New York, Brooklyn. I remember the fugitive’s name was Irving ‘Razor’ Jones. I interviewed the victim’s family and the detectives on the case. We did a re-enactment, and they caught him within a matter of a couple of days after the broadcast.
Three years into producing there, the executive producer said, ‘ I think you’d be good in front of the camera.’
He gave me a murder case to do as a correspondent on air. I was actually 40 years old before I was ever on television, in front of the camera, which is kind of rare.
What came after ‘AMW’?
I was out of television when the phone rang to come do ‘Live PD.’ I was never really off TV completely, I always had some presence in crime TV over those interim years between 2011 and 2016, but I was working for the federal government, and doing a number of things that had nothing to do with television.
How did the ‘Wanted’ segments on ‘Live PD’ come about?
Kara Kurcz, an executive producer of ‘Live PD’ and an ‘AMW’ alumnus as well, brought me into ‘Live PD’ for an audition. One of the first things we discussed was that it would be great if we could profile some wanted people. The A&E directors were open to the idea and I started doing the ‘Wanted’ segments in Season One. We had some success, catching a few people right out of the gate, and it just built from there.
The following year, we reached out to Angeline Hartmann (another ‘AMW’ alum), at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children [to start the ‘Missing’ segments and] continue the mission of what we had done for 25 years on ‘AMW’: finding fugitives and finding missing children.
Some viewers may have a tip but are either not totally sure they have the right information, are scared for themselves or their family, are close to the person or are hesitant about being the one who reports it. What suggestions do you have for them?
When people know something, they will usually find a way in their heart to have the courage to call 911 or to find a way to get somebody else to do it for them. [They might] say, ‘I can’t do this, can you call and give this information?’ It varies, but people want to help.
How would you encourage someone who is hesitant but could genuinely help, to come forward?
Put yourself in the place of the victim of that fugitive’s crime. And ask yourself: If you were in their shoes, wouldn’t you want someone who knew information that could help catch the person who did something horrible to you or your loved one? Wouldn’t you want them to come forward?
Will we see Sticks or Dan on the new show?
I’m pretty sure that will happen at some point.