EXCLUSIVE: Morgan Freeman talks travelling the world for new documentary 'The Story of Us'
Mention Morgan Freeman and just about everybody has a smile (or a smiley face if you’re online).
Whether he’s their favourite actor or just so much a part of pop culture that he’s hard to ignore, Freeman’s reputation conjures up gentlemanly, elder statesman with a storied career.
He is an Oscar winner (for Million Dollar Baby) with three nominations, someone with authority, the voiceover for the CBS Evening News or even God, for some who are fans of the actor’s performance in the Bruce Almighty films or the documentary, The Story of God. His light southern accent and way of speaking are almost always recognizable.
National Geographic’s The Story of Us, follows Freeman’s first project with them; the Emmy-nominated, The Story of God. In both documentaries, the actor travels worldwide to seek out differing viewpoints on enduring subjects such as what we believe in and how we love.
For ‘Us’ Freeman traveled to London, Bolivia, Rwanda, Berlin and parts of the US to answer age-old philosophical questions about what pulls people together and what drives them apart. Before the end of 2018, the docu series will have been translated into 45 languages and run in 171 countries according to the network.
The question is how did it all come together yet again and how does something so fiscally and physically challenging get greenlite?
Executive producers Freeman, Lori McCreary and James Younger recently sat down to talk documentary shop. The subjects were found through a combination of connections, phone calls and research.
“Through office research, we had really great associate producers who spent hours and hours just coming up with 10 ideas and James narrowed it down to a few and then we interviewed those, and based on how the interviews go … and we picked the ones that had the most relevance to the topic but also the one’s who that kind of hit you in the heart,” says McCreary.
“If you’ve seen the episodes, there’s so many amazing people on this planet and it was great to show the human spirit in a positive way. I hate watching the news every night and for us, it was refreshing to see so many people doing such great things around the world.”
Prying could not get McCreary and Younger to go on the record with just how much these globe-hopping documentaries cost but McCreary did say that it was enough for them to take Freeman “in a style he is accustomed to,” and that the budget allowed the two producers to shoot it in a certain quality of high definition film. “It will be a long-lasting series, so even in the future when people have 16K television sets, it will still look really beautiful,” offers McCreary.
For Freeman, the hope is that there will be more documentaries to follow this one. That there will be a demand for this kind of “information.” It’s a project that seems to gel with his many endeavours; acting, producing, directing (CBS’ Madam Secretary) and managing Ground Zero, his blues club in Mississippi.
“The idea of doing it is kind of exciting,” he says. “Traveling around the world and meeting people, having conversations with them about who they are, why they are, how they got to be in situation that they are in -- one is having a conversation with (President) Paul Kagame in Rwanda, talking about the wars and the aftermath; the genocide and the reconciliation. What it takes for that amount of animosity to be [beaten].
"Interestingly, Kagame has been president of Rwanda for 16 years. There is a little bit of danger in that he, among others, absolutely recognises but they don’t feel they have a choice. He has put them together and is holding them together as a country. They don’t call themselves hutu and tutsi (Rwandan regional names). They call themselves Rwandan at his insistence. The feeling is that as long as he is there, that is who they will be.”
“Everybody hoped that would happen in South Africa and perhaps if Mandela had had a different mindset, it would (Mandela was president of South Africa 1994-1999)."
Politics aside, the actor has to admit that regardless of the reason or cause, his celebrity followed him no matter where he landed. Producers Younger and McCreary recall him drawing a crowd, in the Peckham district of London. Freeman simply says “Yes,” when discussing being recognized all over the globe.
“The evening news was saying that Morgan Freeman was seen on the streets of Belfast, Ireland talking like a normal person,” he adds.Tags: