Morgan Freeman has played God, in the movies of course. Appearing as God in Bruce Almighty and its sequel Evan Almighty as the deity, the 81 year old actor appears on the small screen in The Story of God with Morgan Freeman Season 3, delving deep in to beliefs, this season looking at more fringe religions such as Druidism and Wicca.
“I was very curious about Druidism,’ admits the show’s producer James Younger. ‘I was wondering, who are these people – are they going to get off the 5.15 train from London and put on their robes when they get home? But they were genuine people who have a spiritual need that is not being fulfilled by groceries, TV and booze.’
This season sees Freeman and the team travel to Lourdes where they meet a woman who believes she has been cured of paralysis by hold waters, to the Vatican to meet an exorcist and a villa in Pompeii which once housed the secret cult of Dionysus (among others).
‘We were all really moved in Pompeii,’ says Lori McCreary, CEO and co-founder of Revelations Entertainment, the production company she has run with Freeman since 1996. ‘When, in person, you see the casts of people who look like they are trying to take shelter from the eruption of Vesuvius, it’s a feeling that you just don’t get when you see it in pictures.’
The team were also deeply affected as a result of meeting a five-year old goddess in Nepal. ‘She was supposed to bless me,’ recalls Freeman. ‘But it was a little tricky, because they warned us that if her expression changed, that could be bad luck. I didn’t want to shock her, but I was wondering, as I climbed the stairs, has this child ever seen a black person before?’
‘There’s something very interesting about Morgan,’ says McCreary. ‘When he meets these very spiritual people, people who have spent their lives communing with God, they have a real affinity towards Morgan, and I think it is vice versa…Often, we try to get into a place to do an interview, and we are met with a wall of no’s, but then when Morgan walks in, all of a sudden they start saying: “Oh, it’s okay, you can go over there”; “Oh, you can sit in the ceremony – please, partake in the ceremony.” There is something very old-soul about Morgan that people to connect to.’
First aired in 2016, The Story of God is produced in a time where religion is frequently used to justify violence and terror in many countries and to remove the rights of citizens in others. ‘That makes our point of doing the show even more important,’ says Younger. ‘To be able to show that religion is not here to divide us, but to prove to us how we can be united. We can show similarities between people of different faiths, and between people who have faith and people who don’t.’
‘It is easy to think that we’re divided because of religion, but we’re divided because we’re divided,’ he argues. ‘And lack of information and understanding about religion only adds to division. The more understanding there is of religion can only help lessen divisions.’
‘You can’t always completely avoid people who are stupid,’ notes Freeman. ‘But people who say: here is my faith, this is what I believe; it does not challenge what you believe; it is only what I believe – those kinds of people are the ones you enjoy interacting with. Who can say that anyone else is wrong?’
The Story of God with Morgan Freeman premieres on 13 June on National Geographic