From movies like Driving Miss Daisy and The Shawshank Redemption, all the way to Invictus or Million Dollar Baby, Freeman has been in the acting game longer and more successfully than most could even dream. When exactly did he start off in this career?
Morgan Freeman started acting at the age of 9 when he partook in a school play as the lead role. Other than his enlistment in the military, Freeman has always been acting or performing in some capacity.
Freeman must have caught the bug for acting and performing in that school play, as he went on to win a drama competition when he was 12. His acting pursuits would have continued uninterrupted if not for the fact that he joined the military, enlisting in the United States Air Force.
A Young Performer
Once he had served his time in the military, Freeman was free to pursue the profession that he had shown a natural aptitude for in his youth. Although he had turned down a drama scholarship at Jackson State University, there were still other routes to fulfilling his dream.
Freeman decided to take lessons, both in acting and in dance, two performance arts that prove to be his bread and butter in the early years of his performing. For acting, he went to the Pasadena Playhouse, and for his dancing, he took lessons in San Francisco.
Although he had also missed out on the opportunity of the drama scholarship thanks to his decision to enlist, he did still attend college afterward, where in addition to his learning acting and dancing on the side he also studied theatre arts.
Between 1964 and 1970, Freeman had roles in multiple theatre productions but was still looking for his next big break. Although it wouldn’t be the perfect fit for him by any stretch of the imagination, an opportunity did eventually present itself.
Freeman got a part in the educational children’s television show The Electric Company. His debut on the show was as the character “Easy Reader”, a smooth-talking Freeman who loved reading.
This was the first instance that Freeman had been given the opportunity to be introduced to his American audience, with the added bonus that his part on the show was capable of supporting him financially.
Although you may not think it by seeing the upbeat attitude of Freeman during his appearances on the show, according to the producer Joan Ganz Cooney, it simply wasn’t a good fit for the actor, who secretly harbored some resentment about his work on the show, due not wanting to have his name being attached to a children’s TV show.
First Big Movie Role
Although he had already been acting on a selection of different stages, from television to theatre, if you were to ask Freeman what his first major role was, it was the character Fast Black, in Street Smart.
The character was a huge hit for Freeman, not only getting the chance to play in a serious movie, but also a character that was a huge departure from what he was normally used to at the time, assuming the role of the villain.
The movie was met with a glowing reception, especially Freeman’s character, who was generally regarded as being one of the best parts of the movie. So much so, in fact, that he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards.
That career-starting movie part came to Freeman when he was in his late 40s, meaning that the actor had been acting and performing for almost 30 years by the time that he finally hit the big time with a memorable role.
For a man who has become something of a staple figure in Hollywood, assuming a range of roles so diverse as to even include God, it’s hard to believe that it was a career 40 years in the making. It’s a relief that Freeman didn’t become dissuaded or disillusioned with his acting career, as there are a whole host of classic movies that we may have been deprived of.
Freeman himself has commented on occasionally wishing that his career had found an earlier start, but is thankful for the fact that it did. As are moviegoers across the world, who would have been deprived of a number of classic films had he not managed to get his start.