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It was a long road for Freeman

June 26, 2011
By KATHRYN SPIRA , For The Leader Herald

I'm going to talk more about Morgan Freeman as I promised I would last Sunday. I'd like to relate Freeman's struggles for acting success to my own struggles. Although I never attained the success he did, I can certainly identify with the idea of the many side roads an aspiring actor must go down to make any headway.

In my own situation, directly after my acting studies at Indiana University, I was asked to be a cast member of a theater group that toured Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana under the umbrella of the American Repertory Theater Company called ARTREACH. We mainly toured elementary schools with plays like "Hansel and Gretel," as well as an original play called "Blue Horses" penned by artistic director Kathryn Schultz Miller with whom I still communicate by email today.

As I found out, Freeman, in the late 1970s, appeared as a regular on the children's show, "The Electric Company," for seven years, which mainly focused on reading skills for children.

Freeman's marriage to thenwife Jeanette Adair Bradshaw ended in 1979 about the same time that "The Electric Company" was canceled. I can identify with his relationship problems in that most of my connections with guys ended in a bleeding heart. The one relationship which nearly made it to marriage didn't quite make it either, and he was also an aspiring actor as well.

Besides having his marriage end, Freeman was drinking heavily. Things needed to turn around for him. In 1980 he landed the role of a crazed inmate in Robert Redford's "Brubaker."

However, the film was not to lead to greater things. He found his prospects were looking bleak and was forced to return to television in the daytime soap opera "Another World."

I too tried soaps briefly, but mainly worked as an extra in non-speaking parts, but for me, the big break never came.

OK, guys here is my opinion. I think he is most famous for his best-known role in the film "Driving Miss Daisy," in which he starred with Jessica Tandy in 1989. Other big films followed such as "Shawshank Redemption." But I never knew his name until I saw him in "Driving Miss Daisy."

For my old friend Julia Roberts, the breakout role was "Pretty Woman." For my friend and co-worker in restaurants Edie Falco, it was "The Sopranos." For co-waiter and friend Michael Chikliss, it was the TV series, "The Commish." For my co-worker and "clam shucker" Anthony Bourdain, it was the TV series "No Reservations." Ironically, all of us (except Julia) worked in the same restaurant, "Formerly Joe's" on the corner of West Fourth and 10th Streets in the West Village of Manhattan. We all worked together at the same time. I just never got that breakout role and most aspiring actors never do.

When the American Film Institute awarded Freeman its Lifetime Achievement award, which aired on TV Land cable channel June 12, it was for perseverance as well as talent and hard work through all those years until he finally made it.

They began the program with Betty White arriving in a vintage Cadillac just like the one used in "Driving Miss Daisy" with the same theme music as the movie, because like me, most people will remember Freeman for that role.

When Betty White got out of the limo, she sang "Hello Morgan" to the tune of "Hello Dolly," because in both their careers, White and Freeman had been in versions of the musical "Hello Dolly."

For both it wasn't an end, just part of the journey.

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in New York City and Los Angeles, now pursues free lance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns and contact information may be accessed at her website at



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