This Famous Actor Was Catfished - By His Estranged Family
| LAST UPDATE 05/02/2022
James Morosini always dreamed of making a name for himself, but his road to Hollywood was far from smooth sailing. In fact, off-screen, his relationship with his family was just as dramatic. Here's his remarkable story.
Already a well-known actor, James Morosini has been seen in both films and television over the past decade. But now, we're diving deep into the fascinating chain of events that led him to where he is today.
We've all had some ups and downs with our families, but this story goes way past anything we've ever experienced before. The Florida native recently opened up about his bittersweet background - his upbringing and experiences that molded him into the man he is now. So let's take a look at where it all began...
Born in Tampa Bay, Florida, on July 5, 1990, James Morosini and his parents moved to a suburb outside of Boston when he was just a young boy. His father, Claudio Lichenthal, worked as a computer engineer, and his mother, Deborah Morosini, was a pathologist.
The young James grew up in Massachusetts with his family. But eventually, he decided he wanted to join the entertainment business. Of course, though, that didn't mean it would be easy. There was a lot for the aspiring star and his family to consider.
An Opportunity Arises...
As mentioned, James Morosini dreamt of being an actor from such a young age. And at just 15 years old, he knew he was destined to do exactly that. He was set in his ways and decided he would do whatever it would take to get there! Little did he know, his life was about to take a sharp turn.
At 15 years old, his generous uncle gifted him the present of a lifetime, eventually shaping his entire career ahead. His uncle enrolled him in a workshop at the New York Film Academy as a 15th birthday present. And from there, the rest was history...
Welcome to Hollywood
Fast forward a few years, and James Morosini finally completed the workshop at New York Film Academy. He was ready for the next big step in achieving his acting career. As far as he saw it, nothing could get in his way. And so, the actor packed up his bags and moved to Los Angeles.
After arriving in sunny Los Angeles, James Morosini attended the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Upon graduating, the fresh graduate scored his first lead in a Tim Robbins produced Comedy Central pilot, Ultimate Ultimate. And just like that, his career had kicked off. Morosini had finally made it.
After making it on Comedy Central, the young and enthusiastic actor starred in multiple seasons of one of FX's most popular series, American Horror Story. In addition, Morosini was cast in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Big Cheat, Criminal Minds, Lethal Weapon, and more!
Most recently, James Morosini played a season regular as Dalton, the soccer coach in Mindy Kaling's HBO Max show, The Sex Lives of College Girls, which got a lot of praise for its hilarious and adorable storyline. However, off-screen, Morosini was looking to explore more than acting.
Behind the Scenes
The truth was that the actor was not always in front of the screen. In fact, James Morosini independently produced, wrote, and directed his first feature film in back 2017, Threesomething - which made its sold-out world premiere at the 2018 Cinequest Film Festival.
Besides Threesomething, he wrote and directed material for a few other major productions. To the naked eye, Morosini had officially achieved his dreams - but off-screen, there was something that he was battling with, which eventually led to difficulties with himself and his family.
Not All Sunshine & Roses
Given all of his sudden fame and stardom, James Morosini began experiencing struggles with his mental health. Moving far away from home, a complicated childhood, and a completely new lifestyle proved to be quite difficult for the young and eager actor.
Eventually, the actor decided to enter a rehabilitation program to address his harmful thoughts and focus on healing. But despite his urge to move forward, there was a block allowing him to create a connection with someone very important in his life - his dad.
A Complicated Past
As the story goes, part of his mental health struggles stemmed from his relationship with his family - specifically his father. Unfortunately, Morosini and his father had a distant and complicated relationship that led them to not speak to each other for quite a while.
Over the years, Morosini experienced a lengthy history of disappointment from his father. After countless missed calls, broken promises time and time again, tons of canceled plans, and overall heartache, the father and son became estranged from one another.
"I Remember... Being So Embarrassed"
To put it simply, Morosini felt let down time and time again by his father. And once he got older, it only grew worse. The two argued a lot, and there were a lot of unresolved emotions the young actor harbored. But as the years continued to pass, the painful memories only continued to linger.
"I remember one time my dad picked me up from camp when I was a little kid," James recalled. "He had given himself a haircut, and it just looked completely insane. I just remember walking ahead of him and being so embarrassed by him." But the duo's complicated history only grew worse from there.
By the time James reached his twenties, his struggles with anxiety and stress had worsened. And his estranged relationship with his father definitely didn't help. The two were going through a rough patch, but after one massive fight, Morosini decided enough was enough.
The confrontation between Morosini and his father left the two with no communication whatsoever. James decided to cut his dad out of his life permanently - so much so that he even changed his dad's number on his phone to "Do Not Answer," blocking him on all social media accounts. But that's not where this story ends...
Desperate to Connect
As we know, Morosini was convinced it was best to block his dad's number as well as all of his socials. After multiple conversations with his therapist and family, he realized the best way to move forward was to shut Claudio out - but his father felt otherwise.
Claudio, on the other hand, was ready to do just about anything to stay in his son's life - even if it meant deceiving the person he loved the most. This brings us to the other half of our story: an online stranger who would go on to change Morosini and his father's life forever...
What happened? "I got home one day. And this really pretty girl had sent me a friend request on Facebook," James recalled to Screen Anarchy of the moment everything changed. "She seemed awesome." Despite not recognizing the stranger, 'Becca,' Morosini was eager to accept the request. He was intrigued.
Sure enough, as James and Becca got to talking, it didn't take long for a bond to form. He had found a promising online connection, maybe substituting the open wound he had in his heart for his absent father. And just like that, the two users began an online relationship.
Their Connection Grows
As time went on, the two continued to talk and grow closer and closer. And with good reason. "She had all the same interests as me and liked all the same stuff," Morosini recalled. Their bond was unexplainable. As James put it, he had never met anyone like Becca before.
The conversations James was entertaining with this stranger had instilled a new sense of hope in him. After all of the trauma from his past, he was finally mending his broken heart. If only James knew what was really going on on the other side of the keyboard.
Too Good To Be True
Unfortunately, James' connection with Becca also brought a new wave of concerns for the young man. The two shared so much in common that it almost felt too good to be true. He felt so comfortable around this mysterious stranger - but could he really trust her?
Becca started to connect with James more and more, which led to an almost unexplainable personal connection between the two. The two bonded on so many levels, and James felt comfort knowing Becca was there for him. But soon, those same feelings of comfort turned into something entirely more.
Red Flags Emerge
As their relationship got stronger and stronger, James started to gain some real feelings for Becca. And to his understanding, Becca also felt the same way for him, so when they started messaging each other about what it would be like to kiss each other, no one thought anything about it.
However, because the two grew so close so quickly, there were some concerns along the way. Becca knew intimate details about James that no typical stranger would know, and their communication felt so familiar to James - almost like he had known her his entire life…
Connecting the Dots
James was so excited about a potential future with Becca - but it wasn't until one day he stumbled across something that changed the course of their relationship forever. As the story goes, the young actor had planned to meet his father in family therapy to rebuild their relationship. But things soon took a bizarre turn.
As he was preparing to meet his father for another therapy session, something suddenly caught his eye: Becca's email address was the same as his dad's. Was James being catfished by his own father the entire time? He couldn't believe it. He decided to print out Becca's Facebook profile and confront his father, once and for all.
Unmasking the Truth
"It was like a pretty crazy emotion," James recalled of the events that followed. After connecting the dots, there was no going back. "It was complete rage and embarrassment." Sure enough, his suspicions were right: He was being deceived by his father all along.
The groundbreaking and life-changing news really hurt Morosini and only added to his plate of mental health struggles. So when it was time to hear his father's side during family therapy, he decided to approach the situation the best way he possibly could.
Everything Out in the Open
"Who's Becca?" Morosini recalled asking as he stared his father dead in the eye. He slammed the printout on the table, demanding an explanation. After all, there was a lot to process here. "He had basically created this whole profile," the deceived son explained.
Clearly, in shock by the situation, both James and his dad had a lot to discuss. We can only imagine what that day in family therapy must have been like. But as Morosini eventually realized, "his whole profile [was] a way of making sure that I was okay."
A Blessing in Disguise
As wild as it may have been, the unbelievable catfish might have been the best thing to happen to their relationship. "It's funny that this moment in my life with him was maybe the saving grace of our relationship, in that it caused things to really break apart," James explained.
"There was no more pretending. We were both able to agree, like, this is very f***** up. And now we have to talk about it. We can't pretend things are fine between us," Morosini continued to explain. But where would they go from here? After all, how would other people view the situation?
Keeping It Secret
Despite how wildly outrageous and potentially traumatizing the situation was, it actually ended up saving their relationship. So much so, that the young actor decided that even though the situation was unfathomable, he wanted to give his relationship with his dad another shot.
However, despite how open James might have been to overcome their prior difficulties, Morosini was embarrassed by the situation. He wasn't quite ready to share with people what had happened. And so, he decided to keep it a secret - for now, at least.
Unfortunately, the secret behind Claudio pretending to be Becca was almost impossible to keep for both the father and son. Once James found out, he didn't know what to do with the information: He felt angry and embarrassed and not ready to share the "crazy f****** story," as he called it.
As for Claudio, he was desperate for a relationship with James, and to his credit, he knew how inappropriate the online deception was - but he felt he had no other choice. Luckily, his son slowly began to warm up to him again. The two were able to begin mending things and working on moving forward.
"It was us hitting that rock bottom in our relationship, but it forced us to confront some of the foundational problems of our relationship and actually caused things between him and I to get a lot better over time, because we had to talk about it," Morosini recalled.
Despite all the hardships and challenges, Morosini and his father went on to build a healthy relationship. James recognized the untraditional way his father approached the situation, but in the end, his dad did what he did to form a relationship with his son - and it worked!
Headed to the Big Screen
Sure enough, the bittersweet saga was too good not to share. Or at least that's how James saw it. Years later, he decided to turn his life story into a movie - detailing the events between him and Becca, aka Claudio. He "wanted it to be... personal and make [him] feel as exposed as possible."
Despite holding onto the secret for so many years, he finally decided to share it - in the form of I Love My Dad, which premiered at SXSW in 2022. "I was able to recognize that this is weird. It's this cool blend of something really weird, but also beautiful in a bizarre way," James gushed.
I Love My Dad
Morosini's I Love My Dad not online gave a detailed play-by-play of what happened in his life but also showed the true and raw emotions behind his life story. James cleverly managed the difficult and cringe-worthy scenes in a way that was still uplifting and humorous.
Written and directed by Morosini himself, the young actor also starred as himself in the film. Alongside him on the big screen was the fantastic Patton Oswalt as his father and Claudia Sulewski as Becca. Together the cast was able to bring forward the remarkable life story of James Morosini.
A Learning Lesson
According to Morosini, "This was the most uncomfortable thing I could write about," but he felt compelled to share his story. "I believe everything I do creatively should force me to grow in some way or another, or make me uncomfortable in one way or another" he said.
Despite the two having repaired their relationship, I Love My Dad was carefully made to highlight how hurtful everything Claudio did was. Despite the outcome, the movie made sure to show how his father was painfully conflicted with every step he took as Becca, knowing how wrong he was.
How His Dad Felt
As for how his father felt about airing their dirty laundry? "My dad asked me to tell you it didn't [happen]," the film's opening scene revealed. Even though the two have since formed a solid relationship, it was difficult for Claudio to see the events played out on the big screen.
"I think the movie is about that period in your life when you realize your parents aren't perfect, and you kind of hate them for it," Morosini confessed. "Then you ultimately come around, and you realize, 'Oh, I'm not perfect either. They're human. I'm human. Maybe there's a way for us to connect with each other.'"
Morosini recognized the documented events were triggering his mental state but called the events "healing," too. So when it came down to producing I Love My Dad, he "wanted it to be as personal and make me [him] feel as exposed as possible." And that's exactly what he did.
"This is really a celebration of how complicated our relationship has been. It's a celebration of trying to forgive the people and, when it feels like there's no path forward, trying to find a way toward one," he said. "I love my dad," he continued to assure.
Where Are They Now?
With the heightened success of I Love My Dad, James and his father have worked out their differences and can appreciate their relationship even more with all the hardships they endured. Despite some of the fictionalized elements, the important message and story remained the same.
"I took the kernel of what actually happened and extrapolated upon that and used my imagination to push it to the furthest degree of, 'What if it had gone even further in this direction?'" He made sure to express his deepest vulnerabilities to his audiences while still expressing his love for his father.
Not The Only One
I Love My Dad brought Morosini's hurt to the big screen and highlighted the dangers of catfishing. Unfortunately, James is not the only one who has fallen victim to catfishing over the years. Look no further than MTV's Catfish, which shares the stories of other victims of online dating fraud.
People catfish online for numerous different reasons, from gaining profit to plain old curiosity. Statistics prove that more people are meeting online each year, with more people being catfished each year. According to Review 42, 53% of Americans lie on their dating profiles, so we can only imagine what happens behind the screen.
With an endless number of unknown users on the Internet, many people find themselves in uncomfortable and unpredictable situations. Although James' online ordeal featured a happy ending, it should still serve as a learning lesson to be careful when navigating the web.
Additionally, "The [story] is about forgiving the people in our lives. Because we're all messed up in our own ways, and it's about accepting each other in our messed up-ness," James added. Be sure to check out I Love My Dad when it hits the big screens this summer.