“Warrior” Star Jennifer Morrison Remembers Her Salad Years

How’d Jennifer Morrison get into the headspace of her financially strapped character for “Warrior?” Easy – she just remembered those early struggling years in Hollywood.

“When I finished college and decided that this is really what I wanted to do, that's when I was living paycheck to paycheck,” Morrison tells PopcornBiz. In "Warrior," opening this Friday, she plays Joel Edgerton’s wife, a woman who reluctantly watches her schoolteacher husband turn to mixed martial arts competition to save the family from foreclosure. “I was in L.A. and you'd get a guest spot and then you don’t get one and then you get a guest spot and then maybe you get an indie film and you'd get paid scale. I remember those days where you were at the grocery store and you were adding up exactly what you were buying and you're waiting for Lean Cuisine to go on sale because you want to wait until it's two for $5!”

“I certainly was very blessed that I was never in a situation where I was in debt or really in over my head, but I definitely felt those moments of being stretched. I remember going and picking up the information to sign up at a bartending school, because I was two weeks away from not being able to pay the rent. So, I was going to have to figure it out, but then I booked a guest spot and was, like, 'Thank God,' in the eleventh hour.”

The payoff for keeping faith in her career path finally came in 2004 when Morrison was cast as Dr. Allison Cameron on the Fox medical drama “House,” a role she played through 2009. “Once I got 'House' then that was a whole different financial situation that I think was hard to wrap my brain around for a while, because I was still like, 'No, no, no – I need to drive a Ford Focus,'” she laughs.

Since “House,” it appears from the outside that , but she does admit to some Monday morning quarterbacking. “I think there's been a lot of strategy involved, but there are some things that I look back at and they frustrate me,” she admits. “When I look back now, knowing what I know about the business, when I did 'Urban Legends 2' I was 19 years old and I was still living in Chicago, I beat out some really big actresses for that. It was a totally different time in the film business and I really feel like that job should've turned into two or three films before that movie even came out, but I didn't have the savvy to know what kind of representation I needed at that moment to be able to put me in that position.”

Since "House," Morrison’s crafted a model career path for an actress, with film roles (“Star Trek,” “Big Stan”) and steady TV gigs (“How I Met Your Mother”) keeping her gainfully employed. And things may be getting even better -  in addition to her role in "Warrior," she's poised for a big happily ever after moment as the leading lady of the new ABC series “Once Upon a Time,” playing a bounty hunter who discovers, through the child she gave up for adoption, that she may be the offspring of fairy tale icons Snow White and Prince Charming – who are alive and frozen in a mundane small town existence.

She knows the premise from “Lost” scribes Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz sounds out there – in a good way. “It's either or going to be huge or nothing – there's no in-between, I think, for this show,” she admits. “But no matter what I'm excited to be a part of something that's trying, the fact that everyone is really going for it. Literally, I cannot explain what it's like to get a new script on our set.The whole cast is such fans of the writing that we can only hope that the audience feels the way about the shows the way that we feel about the scripts. It just all works. This crazy idea really works. I'm excited to see the episodes. It's been so much fun. As an actor I just couldn't have asked for more.”

And, we presume, the paycheck will more than cover her Lean Cuisines.

"Warrior" opens everywhere this Friday. "Once Upon A Time" debuts on ABC October 23rd

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