Nat Geo’s Emmy-nominated The Story of God With Morgan Freeman premieres its second season tonight at 9/8CT — and a 9-year-old boy steals the show.
In the Season 2 opener, Freeman treks to suburban Minnesota to meet Jalue Dorjee, his parents and teachers, and to spend some time with the boy many Tibetan Buddhists — and the Dalai Lama himself — believe is the eighth reincarnation of guru Takshem Neuden Dorjee.
Freeman looks on as Jalue plays backyard soccer with his pals, memorizes complex religious texts and delivers his first public speech — in traditional robes and sneakers. He asks Jalue if he brushes his sparkling white teeth daily. “Twice,” the little charmer corrects. Freeman clearly sees something special in this unique little fellow — and viewers will, too.
“He will eventually go to a monastery in India to fully realize his place, his calling, what he’s chosen for,” Freeman told me during a recent sit-down chat with him and his Revelations Entertainment partners James Younger and Lori McCreary. “At 9, that’s a little intimidating. I’m 79 years old and I’m in the presence of this 9-year-old. ‘Tell me about yourself.’ ‘Well, I’m reincarnated, and I have to do this, and I have to do that, and I have to learn this — and I have to go to school.’ ‘How do your friends feel about it?’ ‘Well, they were a little off put at first.’ It’s so alien to me. Being in such company — his parents, him, his teachers — they are all so focused on this 9-year old. And he’s so focused. That’s a big thing, the serenity that this 9-year old exudes. He’s still a 9-year old. You get glimpses of that, interviewing him, but the rest of this is someone who is much older.”
“He says, ‘I want to teach people to be kind and to be good,’” Younger added. “That’s his goal in life. To have that as your goal in life, that’s an amazing gift — to be allowed to focus on that, to show kindness.” Especially in the current sociopolitical climate.
“In the current political climate, we are challenged to remain hopeful,” Freeman laments. But, says Revelations’ Lori McCreary, that offers the group a prime opportunity to give viewers a study in goodness, hope and the interconnectivity of all human beings. And also how to better understand things that one might consider threatening or evil.
“One of the reasons we thought this was the perfect time [for this project] was because if we can understand each other more than just the sound bites we see on television, then maybe we can start to have a deeper understanding of what’s going on around the world,” she said.
“Trying to focus on things you have in common is where you can start bringing people together,” added Younger.
That focus made The Story of God the most watched series in Nat Geo history and earned it an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Informational Series or Special.
“It is very gratifying,” said Freeman. “It’s very encouraging. It encourages us to think that we can go on — we can do more of this sort of thing.”
“There’s a tendency amongst the non-religious segment of society to look down upon people of faith as being more primitive, less evolved, less thoughtful,” Younger added. “What I was gratified to see was people who are unfamiliar with that segment of society were suddenly like, ‘Oh. I see how important religion is, both to people and to the world and to the way we get along.’ From an educational point of view and an understanding for encouraging understanding between polarized groups.”
Season 2’s third and final episode tackles a biggie — can God’s existence be proven? Asked how Story balances the spiritual and scientific, Freeman said the hour’s interview subjects — including American Christian missionary and freed North Korea captive Kenneth Bae, a woman who is certain she saw heaven during a near-death experience, and theoretical physicist Ard Louis — made it easy.
“It is there,” he said. “When we spoke to Sujo John, the man who survived the 9/11 World Trade Center collapse. He was inside the building when it was hit. He got out and down into the plaza, and then the whole thing just fell. There he is surrounded by all this dust and rubble and stuff. He said God spoke to him. He didn’t hear a voice, but he felt the presence. The presence told him, ‘You’re going to be all right. It’s going to be OK.’ That’s when he was praying with those people. He was certain, he was trying to get to the South Tower where his wife worked. It turns out she had been late for work and she wasn’t there. This whole episode for him was proof.”
The Story of God With Morgan Freeman premieres its second season Monday, Jan. 16 at 9/8CT on Nat Geo. Season 2 episodes are as follows:
The Story of God With Morgan Freeman: The Chosen One
Premieres Monday, Jan. 16, at 9/8c
Almost every faith has a figure its followers think was chosen by God. Muslims have Muhammad. Christians have Jesus. Jews have Abraham and Moses. Why do we rally around these chosen ones and how do they guide our faith? Morgan Freeman goes in search of the chosen people walking the earth today, including an American boy from the suburbs who is believed to be the reincarnation of a Buddhist lama who has been returning in different bodies for almost 500 years.
The Story of God With Morgan Freeman: Heaven and Hell
Premieres Monday, Jan. 23, at 9/8c
What are heaven and hell? Do they await us in the afterlife or are they here and now? People of all faiths and backgrounds have contemplated these conundrums for thousands of years. Morgan Freeman sets out to learn how these unseen places have changed the way we live, by descending into the ancient Native American underworld, investigating the phenomena of exorcisms and the gift of tongues, and meeting a woman who believes she has seen heaven.
The Story of God With Morgan Freeman: Proof of God
Premieres Monday, Jan. 30, at 9/8c
Have we cut God out of our modern lives or are there still special moments when the divine breaks through and makes its presence known? Morgan Freeman meets a man who felt God’s presence on Sept. 11, learns how Muslims hear God’s voice in the Quran, comes across a tribe whose members believe they can channel the healing power of the divine, and encounters a physicist who has faith that science will lead him to God.