Long-time Los Angeles resident Debbi Morgan never imagined moving to Maryland—until she met her future husband, telecommunications engineer Jeffrey Winston while visiting a cousin in Delaware. “I was returning to ‘All My Children,’ which was taping in New York at that time, so I decided I’d commute back and forth,” recalls the actress, who is best known for her 30-year portrayal of Dr. Angie Hubbard on the popular daytime drama.
After Morgan and Winston married in 2009, they bought a new four-bedroom home in an upscale Upper Marlboro development. Though it was a far cry from breezy, laid-back California, Morgan appreciated the fact that the house wasn’t a “boring” Colonial. “I didn’t want a cookie cutter that looked like every other house,” explains the actress, whose natural warmth and radiant smile are as captivating in person as they are on screen. “I wanted a sense of comfort, where you could relax and throw your feet up. I didn’t want rooms decorated just for show.”
When a friend introduced Morgan to interior designer Lorna Gross-Bryant, the two immediately clicked and started transforming the house—then a blank slate—into a stylish, comfortable home. “I have my own ideas, but I like to have a second eye,” explains Morgan. “Sometimes Lorna gets me more than I get myself.”
Starting with the library, Gross-Bryant honed in on a style that reflected her client’s personality. “Debbi is sophisticated, but there’s something very natural about her,” says Gross-Bryant. Neutral colors and organic textures—such as the woven jute rug by Stark—are dressed up with glamorous details, from the gold metallic paint treatment on the dining room ceiling to crushed velvet drapes in the family room.
“I think the color is really what warmed the house up dramatically,” explains Gross-Bryant.
Now that the main floor is complete, designer and client plan to decorate the lower level. “I want it to be comfortable, but also to have a very sexy look to it,” says Morgan. A two-story addition with a sunroom and loggia are also in the works.
“My home is truly my sanctuary,” observes Morgan. “It’s tranquil, it’s peaceful and it’s like a warm hug.”
Home has always been important to the actress, who was born in North Carolina and raised in Harlem. As a teen, she performed in school plays and later joined the New Federal Theatre Company in New York. Her career took off with numerous roles in stage, film and television productions, including “Roots: The Next Generations.” She is the only African American woman to receive a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress (1989) for “All My Children.” Her many film credits include roles opposite Samuel L. Jackson (Coach Carter) and Denzel Washington (The Hurricane).
Morgan considers her award-winning portrayal of Mozelle Batiste in Eve’s Bayou (1997) to be her most challenging to date. “I was scared to death,” she admits. “But I was dealing with fears in other aspects of my personal life and making giant headway. I had to do the same thing taking on this role. It became a personal triumph for me.”
Off camera, Morgan has long grappled with the trauma of witnessing both her mother and grandmother suffer as victims of domestic violence. The actress reveals how she finally overcame these demons in her memoir, The Monkey on My Back (Simon & Schuster, New York; June 23, 2015; $16). The book “helped me come to the realization that I was actually stronger than I gave myself credit for,” she says. “I hope it will encourage women to seek therapy.”
In August, Morgan will perform a one-woman play based on the book at the 2015 National Black Theater Festival in North Carolina—which she will co-chair with her “All My Children” co-star, Darnel Williams. She will also appear on Oprah Winfrey’s “Where Are They Now?” and has a new television concept in the works.
Between trips to New York and L.A., Morgan couldn’t be happier in her adopted home. “I love going into DC to restaurants and the Kennedy Center and Warner Theatre,” she says. “And my best friend on the entire planet lives right around the corner. Between her and my husband, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Photographer Angie Seckinger splits her time between Potomac, Maryland, and Spain. Jesse Snyder is based in Huntingtown, Maryland.
INTERIOR DESIGN: LORNA GROSS-BRYANT, ASID, Lorna Gross Interior Design, Bethesda, Maryland.