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Morgan Freeman on National Geographic’s ‘Story of God,’ Early Stage Role

Morgan Freeman has been nominated for five Oscars, winning in 2005 for his supporting role in “Million Dollar Baby.” But his name first appeared on these pages in a review of the 1969 Broadway play “The Dozens.” “I’ve been in two really stinky plays, and that was one of them,” Freeman says. “But that’s where I got my first mention in Variety.” To younger audiences, he’s perhaps best known for playing God in “Bruce Almighty”; he’s re-exploring the man upstairs in National Geographic’s “The Story of God.”

Why were you interested in “The Story of God?”

I have this curiosity about life, and one of the things that surrounds life is the idea of death, and what comes with the idea of death is what comes after that. And all of that is encapsulated in our ideas of God and religion.

Your first Variety mention was in 1969. What do you recall from that time?

I auditioned for this Off Broadway play, and they hired a friend of mine. He didn’t work out, so they called me back, and one of the producers said, “I’m one of the ones who didn’t want to hire you, and that was a big mistake, so I’m going to put you on Broadway.” That was my beginning. I had gone from this first job to a musical on Broadway — “Hello Dolly.” The trajectory was linear from 1976 to 1980, and then in 1980, the phone stopped ringing.

Your current trajectory hasn’t stopped.

Not yet!

Who taught you the most?

My very first role Off Broadway, I was with Stacy Keach and Viveca Lindfors, and that was a serious learning curve because I had not worked before with that caliber of actors. The thing I learned about acting was it was a giving process. Nobody teaches you how to act except other actors.

What role do you still want to play?

I’m in no shape to do it, but I still want to play Bass Reeves, who was a deputy U.S. marshal back in the 1870s in Oklahoma territory — the only time America exercised meritocracy.

What would you like to focus on in the future?

Producing. Having a say about what gets on the air, what the subject matter is. I would like to redress some ignored subjects and people.

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