Home News

Morgan Freeman once had fans throw his autograph ‘on the floor’ after a hand cramp-inducing signing

20 years before he landed his first major Hollywood role Morgan Freeman was playing it cool and teaching kids to read.

There are few in the younger generations that remember Morgan Freeman as anything other than a dulcet-toned, grandfatherly figure, with an incredible acting range. But long before he was playing the voice of God, or driving Miss Daisy, Freeman was an accomplished stage actor with a penchant for children’s television. His first off-Broadway role came in the form of the 1970s PBS show, The Electric Company, a serialized children’s show much like Sesame Street that focused on teaching kids to read with a heavy 70s backdrop. It featured bellbottoms and groovy music, poked fun at the pop culture of the time, and featured a number of well-known actors from the era including Bill Cosby, Rita Moreno, and voice actress Hattie Winston.

Freeman starred in the program for most of its run starting from 1971 to 1976 —the series ended in 1977— and played a slew of characters. His most prominent recurring bits were The Easy Reader, a hipster character who spoke in rhyme and sang about how much he loved to read, and Mel Mounds, a DJ who introduced musical numbers – and performed a few himself. The lanky Freeman was already in his 30s when he landed the gig, and according to producer Joan Ganz Cooney, “it was a very unhappy period in his life.”

Freeman had been struggling to break into the Hollywood scene and, though The Electric Company came with a stable paycheck he felt looming anxiety that he would be typecast as a children’s actor his whole career. A fear quite well founded as Caroll Spinney of Sesame Street fame — someone Freeman saw regularly as the two series were filmed in the same location — didn’t retire from the program until 2019. But despite the bad memories, Freeman was grateful to be on the show and open to talking about the experience when he appeared on Jimmy Kimmel.

 It really does sound like it’s hard to find the bright side in being a children’s actor. Freeman shared a few anecdotes about the type of crowds he pulled in, from being recognized in parks and forced to entertain children so young they would never remember him, to spending hours on freezing floats so his young fans could catch a glimpse of The Easy Rider, it sounds like there was a lot of effort for little payoff.

The first time Freeman ever rode in a limousine was on a trip to a Philadelphia mall, where he was set to sign autographs for his adoring young fans. He recounts “I must be there for an hour and a half signing my name. You get writer’s cramp and all that stuff.” While he recalls the ache of his hand, the event was over relatively quickly, the crowd rapidly thinning after the hour-long ordeal. It was then that Freeman realized that the abundance of trash littering the mall floor was the effort he had just put in.

“On the floor. All those little bits of paper that I was signing.”

Despite the lack of love for his time on the program, Freeman has a good sense of humor about the situation all these years later continuing, “You know what they say, you give it all for art!”

Ash Martinez
About the author

Ash Martinez

Ash has been obsessed with Star Wars and video games since she was old enough to hold a lightsaber. It’s with great delight that she now utilizes this deep lore professionally as a Freelance Writer for We Got This Covered. Leaning on her Game Design degree from Bradley University, she brings a technical edge to her articles on the latest video games. When not writing, she can be found aggressively populating virtual worlds with trees.