Question: Please settle a bet between my friend and me. I am positive that I remember the actor Morgan Freeman on the kids' show The Electric Company in the mid-'70s. My friend says no way. Who is right? I have a bottle of very good wine riding on this!!! Jessica U., Talent, Ore.
Televisionary: Well, this oughtta pop your cork, then, Jessica. (And, at the risk of beating this horse to death, all you Goofuses who hold back on the details of your betting should take note of Jessica's Gallant-like move of telling me what she and her pal have at stake in their bet.)
Freeman did indeed play Easy Reader, the afro-wearing character who helped a generation of children learn to read on the brilliant Electric Company, from 1971-76. That role followed acclaimed work on stage and represented the actor's first break in television, but his feelings about the job seem to depend on when you asked him about it. In 2001, when he served as chair of the National Education Foundation's Read Across America campaign, he said the character "holds a special place in my heart, not only because of the creative opportunity it offered, but because of the chance the role gave me to promote the joy of reading and the importance of literacy." However, in 1998, he told The Calgary Sun a different story. "That job literally drove me to drink," he said. "It was so undemanding I began drinking. I thought this was all I would ever get."
With three Academy Award nominations (Best Actors for Driving Miss Daisy and The Shawshank Redemption and a Best Supporting Actor for Street Smart) and a slew of successful films (High Crimes, Seven, Unforgiven, etc.) under his belt, it's nice to see how wrong Freeman was.