Several years ago, Morgan Freeman and his producing partners Lori McCreary and James Younger traveled the globe to explore the uniting power of faith for National Geographic’s smart and intensely moving The Story of God With Morgan Freeman, which bowed in 2016. Critically acclaimed and Emmy-nominated, the series debuted a shorter second season last January, even as the group was already at work on another approach to spotlighting global unity in a time where we can’t even get along with our neighbors.
“Story of God felt so eye-opening to all of us,” Younger explains. “Then we realized that religion is just one aspect of what keeps human society together. Love is a primal scaffolding in human society. Power and leadership — how people organize themselves into groups where they can be effective. That has been a constant. War and peace, same — a constant thing.
“[The Story of Us] is about bonds between people,” Younger continues. “What do we agree to do together? What do we yearn for together? What do we struggle with each other about?” And equally important to understanding the concept of us, adds Freeman, “Why do we develop these bonds? And what if people don’t bond?”
Thus, the “root of all evil” — money — necessarily enters the picture in several of the six Story of Us episodes. “Money does different things,” Freeman muses. “If I’ve got enough of it, I have an awful lot of control over you and your life. Awful lot. And that’s always caused rebellion. You’ve got all these have-nots starting to boil — and when that boils over, it’s gonna force a leveling. I think that’s in our future.”
“But the other side of money, the more positive side, money is foundational and crucial to society,” Younger adds. Think about the word ‘credit.’ ‘Credit’ comes from the Latin ‘credo’ — ‘I believe’. So it says, “I believe you’re going to pay me this money back.” And if it wasn’t for that shared belief that we are in this together — ‘I’m gonna give you something, you’re gonna give me something back.’ — then we couldn’t build society. So in a sense, like love, money, in its best form, is a manifestation of trust.”
But, Freeman reiterates, The Story of Us is about just that — humanity — not the stuff we buy and build.
“How do we define civilization? What is it really?” the 80-year-old icon offers. “When we say civilization, most of the time we mean cities and vehicles — what we see when we look out the window or when we go out in the streets. But, when you go into the world, you find civilization in the jungle. The Amish say, ‘We don’t need that to live.’ And there are whole other groups of people who say the same thing: ‘We don’t need the trappings of civilization. We’re civilized.’”
On a personal level, Freeman calls the chance to explore the better part of human nature “life-assuring and self-assuring. Life is just a series of plateaus,” he smiles. “If you keep reaching for the next one up, you’re having a good time!”
The Story of Us With Morgan Freeman > National Geographic > Wednesdays beginning Oct. 11
The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman: The March of Freedom
Premieres Wednesday, Oct. 11, at 9/8c
Freeman travels around the world in search of a greater understanding of the concept of freedom. From solitary confinement and forced labor camps, to social taboos and laws that hinder speech and expression, freedom seems to be a constant struggle. As individuals and as entire nations, we are confronted with the question: Will we all ever be truly free?
The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman: The Fight for Peace
Premieres Wednesday, Oct. 18, at 9/8c
Freeman travels the world to study the cycles of war and peace. From the ritualized combat of the sacred Tinku festival in Bolivia to Rwanda’s post-genocide reconciliation program, this episode deals with humanity’s enormous capacity for violence and the endless pursuit of harmony. Conflict can drive innovation, but is war necessary? Physical barriers and a fear of destruction might make us more cautious, but is peace merely the absence of war?
The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman: The Power of Love
Premieres Wednesday, Oct. 25, at 9/8c
Can love change the world? Freeman is on a global quest to understand how this primal force binds us together as a species. From orphanages to battlefields, from arranged marriages to life on the streets, Freeman sees how love can be found in unexpected places—and how this force inspires us all.
The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman: Us and Them
Premieres Wednesday, Nov. 8, at 9/8c
Can we bridge the divide between “us and them?” At a time when the whole world seems to be polarizing into irreconcilable camps, Freeman sets out on a journey in search of the forces that push us apart, from intolerance of differences to fear of outsiders, and the possibilities of coming together.
The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman: The Power of Us
Premieres Wednesday, Nov. 15, at 9/8c
Can we find a way to distribute power so that everyone has their say? A U.S. president explains the challenges of making decisions that affect hundreds of millions of lives, and Freeman learns about an African woman who has created a society without men. He explores how the rise of the internet may fundamentally change how democracy works.
The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman: The Spirit of Rebellion
Premieres Wednesday, Nov. 22, at 9/8c
Freeman’s quest to understand what makes a rebellion successful brings him face-to-face with exiles, whistleblowers, hackers and movement leaders. From Berlin to Bolivia to the United States, he’ll see the courage, dedication, hard work and hope that it takes to try to change the world.