June 2002
Always Working : An Interview with Morgan Freeman

Interviewed by Wilson Morales

Always Working : An Interview with Morgan Freeman

There isn’t that many actors who can slide into their role with ease and make that character shine, whether the part is small or large. Morgan Freeman, on the other hand, is an exception. After playing the lawyer working against the military government to free an innocent man in “High Crimes”, he now plays the opposite as a career military man in his latest film, The Sum of All Fears. In an interview with blackfilm.com, Morgan shares his opinions on the film post 9/11.

WM: When this film started shooting, it was just a film on the Jack Ryan series. Now that 9/11 has occurred, do you get a sense of the difference in perception of the audience, now that you’ve seen a real terrorist attack carried out on the United States? Is there a sense of trepidation to bring this film into the marketplace?

MF: No, I don’t think so at all. There were questions of course that surfaced not long after 9/11. You know that yourself that there was the big question of what’s the worst mega movie. There was this one, there was one other, because genre movies never surface by themselves. For some reason or another they come up in bunches. And the question was what do we do here? Do we or should we release these films or should we just wait and see what the psyche of the nation is going to turn out to be. Are we going to, or is it going to be overkill? Are we going to traumatize people who are already slightly traumatized? But then we discovered that we are not really traumatized. We get this and we get past it. We overcome it. It’s like hey it happened, we’re all here still. A lot of us are not, but the bulk of us are here and we are going to prevail, we are going to be all right and we still need our entertainment, we still want our entertainment. So yeah we’ve had, we’ve had many times before. What shall we call these kinds of movies that say this could happen? What do you call that? Huh? Topical. Yeah topical. Well its sort of like this could happen. This is like this is cautionary, you know? The truth of the matter is that we do have these weapons. We have enough weapons to kill ourselves and the future generations for 100 years. We only have this simoniacum of control over where they and what they are doing and who has them. We’re constantly developing new technologies for delivering them. And this technology is winding up in the hands of people who are maybe less trustworthy than you and I are. You know in terms of yours and my safety. So I think we are doing a good thing, when we continue to bring these things to the forum. I don’t think we are taking any kind of chances, particularly in the light of recent events, particularly.

WM: Do you think about your role in this movie as we just saw you fight crime in “High Crimes” and I think you’re played the opposite in “Nurse Betty”? Do you think you fit the typecast?

MF: Oh yeah I’m sure, an assassin, a drunk and the head of the CIA, they’re pretty close together. They’re all wise? No they’re all mean. They’re not all wise. Charlie couldn’t possible be thought of as being wise. He’s just an itinerary hit man. Head of the CIA, yeah you could think of him as being wise. Charlie, Charlie Grime. Here’s a guy whose had a hard life and living hard. It does give you in part a certain amount of wisdom to you. But you know, I don’t know.

WM: Do you find as an actor that the audience is so with you that they will extrapolate what they need?

MF: This is going to sound like an attack on you and it’s not meant to be. But if the audience is not with you, then they’re against you. So if they are following along close enough, adding their own bits and pieces. Which is where the humor comes from in these situations, because we don’t see anything funny, we don’t. We’re not trying to be humorous at all, the dialogue says he says these things, fine say that and then the audience goes ha, ha, ha. Somebody found that funny, you know. Of course they were paying attention, they were there. Yes, gratifying, that’s what you, that are what you. That’ the whole point of the whole exercise that they’re with you, they’re paying attention, butts are in the seats and they are glued to what you are doing.

WM: We know actors that go from movie to movie and it seems sometimes like you do. I know you take time off to go sailing. How do you fit it all in?

MF: I don’t fit it all in and I don’t take time off. Time takes me off. You know what I mean. If I got a job, that’s it. If I get a movie, if somebody says movie, everything stops and I go do the movie. But for the most part I don’t really go from job to job to job. I have to, most of the time I’m looking. I’m on the hunt. Periodically, thanks heavens I will know when one movie ends that I am going to do another. I just did, I did 2 back to back, earlier this year. You know you’re doing one, you know that as soon as I wrap, I’m traveling to the next set. But by and large, movie wraps and I’m out of work. That’s it. I’m hunting for another job. And I will take that time sometimes to sneak off and do my thing.

WM: In that hunting you don’t obviously have to audition for something?

MF: No I don’t have to. It’s just reading and trying to make decisions. Informed or intelligent decisions.

WM: What are your memories of the Electric Company? Where do you see children’s television now?

MF: I think children’s television. If we have to contend with television at all it has sort of gotten a grip on itself and moving in the right direction. One of my favorite channels of all television shows is Nickelodeon. It’s chock full of advice, information, how to’s, what ifs, what are’s. The best use of television is an educational tool.If we could only understand it. I came up with a theory, want to hear it? We have a new syndrome that we call Attention Deficit Disorder. You know what it really means? You’re not moving fast enough. You put your 3-year-old down in front of a television set o.k. You say mommy is going to be in the kitchen making you some cookies. Now don’t you move. You sit here and you watch TV. And that kid is sitting there and image information is coming at enormous rate, at just about the rate the child could absorb it. From the ages of birth to 7 years old they say you can’t out run a child. They can learn 4, 5 languages at the same time. So television is the perfect medium for that kind of need that ability to absorb information. So we do that until the child reaches what age, 5, 6? And then suddenly we put them in school and the information flow slows down. What’s a child to do. Can’t handle that. You just screwed up an entire mind. That’s your attention deficit disorder my way of thinking. The kids bored in school. So you’re going to take from medium where they’re getting information in bits that are coming in like. You watch television see how the commercials do it and they’ve given you enormous amounts of information. And you’re not even, you’re not really thinking. You’re not conscious that you’ve gotten all of this, but you’ve gotten it. Even at your age you’ve gotten it. So television could be used to great, great benefit. If we only learned how. I think. My memories of the Electric Company ensemble were great fun, great cast, and good time for 2 years. Then I was sick to death of television. I can say that now.

WM: Can you tell us what it was like working with Ben? Had you met him before?

MF: No

WM: Did you get on right away? Was it a nice rhythm and so on?

MF: Well to tell you the truth, Ben was a little awestruck by my presence. I am after all one of the most admired and well thought of actors running around Hollywood today. And when I came to work, he was speechless.