Tracy Morgan may be on the road to recovery physically, but the emotional damage he suffered in last year's car accident is still pretty severe. Sitting down on Monday, June 1, for his first interview since the June 7, 2014 crash that killed his friend James McNair and left him with debilitating injuries, the formerly upbeat comedian broke down crying several times in a span of about eight minutes.
"I can't believe I'm here. I can't believe I'm in front of you," Morgan told the Today show's Matt Lauer, seemingly at a loss for words. "Just seeing the tragedy that happened, it touches me."
The 30 Rock alum went on to admit that he's been "down" much of the last year, but said his family and friends — including fiancee Megan Wollover and former costar Tina Fey — have tried to keep his spirits up.
"I mean, the case is settled, but the pain is always gonna be there for Jimmy Mack," he shared of McNair, choking back tears. "He was a close friend of mine, a comrade in comedy. He was a loving man and he was a warm man. He was a good man. It just hurts me to see that he's gone."
Morgan doesn't remember the accident itself, but he does remember coming to in the hospital two weeks later. It was then that Wollover broke the news to him that McNair had died and been laid to rest while the actor was in a coma.
"The last time I saw Jimmy, Jimmy wrote a joke for me. It was a Donald Sterling joke," the SNL star recalled to Lauer. "And I asked him to come to me the day before, and he said, 'I'll be there. I love you. Peace.' And we went there [to Delaware], and we did the show...And I looked to the side, and I see Jimmy standing there laughing. And that was the last time I [saw] him alive."
The loss of his friend didn't register right away, but it settled in later once he was out of the hospital. "When I got home, it really hit me. And every day I would just watch the accident on YouTube," Morgan revealed. "One day, I came across his funeral on YouTube, and I lost it for about a week." Asked why he'd seek out such clips, he replied, "I had to know what happened to my friend. I had to pay my respects. And that was my way."
Morgan also broke down while talking about his recovery, and the team of medical professionals who helped him through it — in particular, a nurse named Jackie. "When I first came out of the coma, I was a mess. I would curse her out every day, I would throw things at her, and the only thing she would say to me is, 'Everything's gonna be all right,'" he shared.
Later, when he returned to the hospital, he saw her in the hallway. "I just grabbed her and I wouldn't let her go. And I said, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry,'" he said, crying. "She said, 'I told you everything was gonna be all right.'"
Morgan still has a long, hard road ahead of him before he's really back on his feet, but as he told Lauer, "Bones heal. But the loss of my friend will never heal."
He can take some comfort, though, in his recent settlement with Walmart, whose truck caused the six-vehicle crash on the New Jersey Turnpike. "I'm happy that Walmart stepped up to the plate in a tremendous way," he said. "They took full responsibility...and I'm just really happy that they looked out for Jimmy Mack's family. Because I know my friend can rest in peace now."
Morgan, for his part, plans to eventually get back to work, but at the moment, he's focused on just getting better. "I love comedy. I'll never stop loving her. I love comedy and I can't wait to get back to her," he told Lauer. "But right now, my goal is just to heal and get better. 'Cause I'm not 100 percent yet. I'm not. And when I'm there, you'll know it. I'll get back to making you laugh, I promise you."
Watch the emotional interview above.
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