Updated: Aug 2, 2021
“ "Okay to ask you a few questions, Mr. Freeman?" I ask. "Only if they're better than those," he bellows, and I freeze. He stares at me."
I sit opposite of what is the captain’s chair on a boat docked on the Mississippi shore and ask Ted Danson questions about the ocean. A microphone hovers over him as he talks and talks in length and in circles to my question, interjecting other thoughts and ideas he wants to convey. We finish and he shakes my hand and says "Pleasure," and I step back against the wall. Morgan Freeman sits down, his first time involved with this charity, and everyone is nervous. He says little, and carries himself as you would expect, demanding respect and intimidating with the image that precedes him and with a strong physical presence. The chosen interviewer begins to ask him questions, but they sound prewritten, cold and mechanical. He responds tersely and waits for the next. She is done quickly, and as she finishes I summon the courage to ask the producer if I can go in for some questions of my own. "Sure," he says, and bends over and whispers in Morgan's ear. He nods yes. I move forward, and sit down to face him. "Okay to ask you a few questions, Mr. Freeman?" I ask. "Only if they're better than those," he bellows, and I freeze. He stares at me. "Mine are a lot better than those," I say directly into his eyes. I let out a breathe. He smirks. "Then sit down," he says. I ask him what makes him care about the ocean, and what is his earliest memory of the water. He puts his head back in thought, then tells a story of how his mother warned him and his siblings about the Mississippi. "Don't be going down to that river," he says as his mother, in that voice that is purely his and a part of every character he ever played. We talk more. The camera rolls. He nods. I get up and lean over to thank him. He pats my shoulder. "Okay," he whispers to me, and smiles. "Okay."