Morgan Freeman has garnered critical acclaim for many roles, including those in Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank Redemption and Million Dollar Baby, for which he won a best supporting actor Academy Award. Freeman, who has one of the most recognizable voices in Hollywood, is the host of Science Channel’s Through the Wormhole. The 75-year-old explores mind-blowing subjects such as what is nothing, resurrecting the dead and the power of the subconscious mind. The shows air at 10 p.m. Wednesdays.
He also reprises his role as Lucius Fox in The Dark Knight Rises, which opens Friday.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q. Has doing the series Through the Wormhole influenced your own ideas about God or the afterlife?
A. We did an episode about life after death. The series was investigating the idea of resuscitation, of bringing the dead back. There have been many instances where the dead, for all intents and purposes, have been revived. So extending that thinking a little further, scientists are thinking it might be possible to rejuvenate. Not like you died and will come back. I don’t think reincarnation works.
Q. But did it influence your own opinions, whatever they are about life after death?
A. I guess so. I guess I’ve gotten some influence from the scientific idea that it could be done, that we could probably do it on purpose rather than thinking of it as some sort of accident. We know a quick freeze, like babies who have fallen into cold water, have left and have been revived. So there’s a way to extend that, but we haven’t figured it out completely yet.
Q. In watching all the shows, my question is: What is the universe expanding into?
A. See, you are on my page because that’s my question. Hubble decided that all of the galaxies we can see are rushing away from each other. It means that the universe not only is expanding but it’s accelerating. My question is like yours. Is there a difference between space and the universe? You have to say there is if the universe is expanding.
Q. And I want to know what is the stuff we are expanding into?
A. Just space.
Q. What is space?
Q. So will you do a show on that nothing?
A. I’m trying to generate interest in that. Everyone I talk to around the studio maintains that there is no difference between space and the universe. I say, I don’t know how you could come to that conclusion if you buy the idea that the universe is expanding.
Q. How has doing this show changed how you see everyday life?
A. I have for the longest time – particularly since 1969 – been able to see us and think of us as space travelers. Not interstellar, we are never going to – I shouldn’t say never going to, but it’s going to be a really, really long time before we are able to leave our solar system with the idea of arriving somewhere. We sent probes out – explorers have left the solar system, but it will be thousands of years before they get anywhere. But if you think about it, we’re all in motion. We’re going somewhere at a really high speed.
Q. Speaking of going somewhere, when you look back at your own life – from where you came from in Mississippi to where you are now – what is your reaction?
A. Same thing as our president says: Only in America.
Q. Does your approach to the acting change when you are the lead versus a character actor?
A. It doesn’t really matter what the role is ... you just have to be able to believe. If I believe I am who I am, then you have no choice but to believe. Psychologically, I think being the lead does give you a leg up (in) how you approach work, but not the role.
Q. Have you ever played a part that touched a nerve or came close to anything in your own experience?
A. Ahhh no, not really. I was thinking Driving Miss Daisy because of the way I grew up and who my parents were. I know they worked as domestics at one point in my teens. I was very aware of their situation, which was a good one. But that’s as close as I could get.
Q. You grew up in the South before the civil-rights movement. How were you able to ignore all the people who thought of you as different?
A. Well, you don’t spend a lot of time around people who think of you like that. (Laughs)
Q. When it comes to your family, do you feel part of what you do is to honor them and those who went before you? To be the best, not to be a victim and keep moving forward?
A. Well, I don’t think of it in those terms, really, though they stand on their own as truths. My No. 1 mentor was Sidney Poitier, you know, from a distance. I just tried to pattern everything that I did after his life and his dedication. But I was going to be doing it anyway. It’s just that his life reinforced my feeling (that) OK, I can do it, too.
Q. You once said that you believe in the cycle of life and when we die we just go back to the earth and other life is nourished.
A. Yes, that is right. I do believe the cycle of life is constant. Life and death are binary.
Q. You don’t fear death?
A. No. What is there to fear?