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Native Charlottean with special tie to WCNC Charlotte makes acting debut on NBC's 'Law & Order' Thursday night

Morgan Wardlaw is the daughter of longtime WCNC Charlotte photojournalist Kevin Wardlaw. She had a guest role on the primetime NBC show at 8 p.m. EST.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A native Charlottean with a special tie to WCNC Charlotte made her TV debut Thursday night on NBC’s “Law & Order”.

Morgan Wardlaw is the daughter of longtime WCNC Charlotte photojournalist Kevin Wardlaw. She had a guest role on the primetime NBC show, which aired at 8 p.m. EST Thursday.

Morgan said she auditioned for more than 75 projects in the last year before finally landing her first TV role.

“It feels really good to have a network credit finally under my belt after auditioning, telling my family and friends ‘I’m an actor’ and having nothing real per se to show for it, but now I really feel like this is a milestone,” she said.

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Morgan’s performance career started long before her TV debut. She began acting in community theatre as a child. She said her first production was “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte at ImaginOn in Uptown Charlotte.

Her love of the arts and performing continued through high school and college. She’s also an accomplished violinist and graduated from Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte.

Morgan majored in psychology at Randolph College in Virginia, but her love of acting eventually led her to New York after graduation.

Her dad, Kevin, said he knew his daughter would be successful at whatever she set out to do because of her tenacity.

“Morgan has been grinding, and that’s just the type of person she is,” he said. “She has a very strong work ethic, and all I did for her was love her.”

Morgan said she called her parents as soon as she booked the gig on “Law & Order.” She said her mom had texted her for a chicken recipe right before the call, which made for a funny interaction.

“I called her saying, ‘Mom!’ and she’s like, ‘You had to call me about the chicken?!’" Morgan said. “I was like, ‘No! I booked Law & Order!' and she was like ‘Oh!’”

Her dad had a more joking reaction.

“My dad is also very excited,” Morgan said. “He’s a little more low-key so he had a lot of questions.”

“I don’t really want to say what I said to her. I said, ‘You not going to be in the background waving or something?’” Kevin said with a smile and a laugh. “I was like, ‘This is a speaking role, huh?’”

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Morgan did have a speaking role. She said she was treated like a queen as she stepped onto the legendary set for hair, makeup, and wardrobe.

She said she was nervous to work with the seasoned pros on the show but held her own when the lights and camera were on her. 

“It’s like, ok you know, they’re professional,” Morgan said. “They’re more seasoned than you are, but you know what you’re doing, too. You got the role for a reason. Just, you know, let it go. Let it melt away. Stay in the scene.”

The season finale episode of “Law & Order” is focused on the murder and investigation of an off-duty NYPD detective.

Morgan still isn’t sure what made it to the final cut of the show, but one thing’s for sure, lots of eyes will be watching at home in the Queen City.  

“We’re having a watch party, and we’re going to have people at the house,” Kevin said. “So the rule is: When the show is on, if you talk, you get expelled to the patio.”

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Morgan said she’s hoping to marinate in this moment of her first big success as an actor.

“I’d like to allow that space to be happy about my first job and celebrate that win,” Morgan said, “and I know something’s going to come next, but for now, I’m going to really ride this wave for a while.”

Morgan’s TV debut comes full circle for the Wardlaw family, which has a deep history with the NBC network. Kevin is WCNC Charlotte’s longest-employed photojournalist at the station. His wife, Janyce, worked at the network's affiliate service NBC News Channel for several years.

By pure coincidence, Morgan’s first primetime acting gig is on NBC.

“I thought that was great. I was like, you know what, this feels like a good omen somehow,” Morgan said. “You know, we’re an NBC family.”

And while this is Morgan’s first time on a network television show, her family knows this won’t be the last the world sees of Morgan Wardlaw on the TV screen.

“I’m proud of her, but not just because of this ‘Law & Order’ thing,” Kevin said. “I’m just proud of the woman that she is.”

Contact Kendall Morris at kmorris2@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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