Earlier this week, I flew to Clearwater, Florida to interview Morgan Freeman about his reprised role in the Dolphin Tale 2, the second part of the story of Dolphin Winter, who had a mechanical tail fitted to her body after she lost her own in a entanglement in a fishing net. In this sequel, Winter sinks into depression when her surrogate mother dies, and just when she is about to be moved out of the marine center, a new companion, a 3-month-old dolphin, Hope, is brought in.
But our conversation was dominated by the developing events at Ferguson, Missouri, where angry demonstrations, looting and violence have been raging since the shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old black youth, Michael Brown, by a white police officer on Aug 9th. The national guard was called to the city to rein in the seemingly uncontrollable unrest.
“The anger of people because the police shoots a kid is justified. Of course it’s justified,” exclaims Freeman.
The statistics of police officers shooting African Americans reveals a disturbing picture. Last month alone, 5 young black Americans lost their lives to police bullets. Evidently, having a black president in the White House hasn’t changed police attitude towards his community. According to Freeman, it has actually proven that the country has evolved into a new form of racism. “It was dormant,” he says with wide eyes. “Now a lot of stuff has come up from under the rocks.”
Although an avid supporter of President Obama, The Oscar-winning actor never campaigned for him or got engaged in politics, insisting that he is an actor not a politician, but he could hardly conceal the simmering anger behind his convivial veneer over what he calls “attempts to derail Obama’s presidency.”
“I am incensed over what’s happening to him,” he exclaims. “At the beginning of Obama’s career as president they said that they will do whatever is necessary to see to it that he only serves one term. What is that about? Hmmm? So we don’t have to dwell on it. There it is. We all do what Obama does; make the best of it. He is the president, there’s no way around it.”
Born in Memphis, Tennessee on June 1, 1937, Freeman lived through challenging times for African Americans, blaming racism for the lengthy time it took him to make his breakthrough in Hollywood, which was his Oscar-nominated supporting role in 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy.
“I don’t know if you remember, there were quite a few disaster movies. The World After The Apocalypse, and one of the things that struck me was that only white people ever survived those things, so it was a little upsetting,” he laughs.
But unlike America’s urban streets, where blacks feel mistreated by the police, Hollywood, he says, experienced a complete flip. “As long as it makes money, Hollywood doesn’t care, Yeah!” he quips.
Indeed, the success of his movies and the vast number of accolades, including 5 Oscar nominations, has rendered his skin colour irrelevant. He has often played characters that were usually reserved for white actors, such as the president of the United States in Deep Impact or the scientist in the Dark Knight Trilogy. “I am an actor; I am not a professional black man,” he laughs.
As well as the upcoming Dolphin Tale 2, in which he reprised the role of the Dr. Cameron MacCarthy who developed a prosthetic tail that enables Winter to swim, Freeman can also be seen in Luc Besson’s thriller Lucy, in which he plays yet another scientist who helps Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) in her supernatural predicament.