Actor Morgan Freeman has played a wide range of characters during his decades-long career. While the Oscar-winning actor is best known for roles in major motion pictures such as “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Se7en,” and “Million Dollar Baby,” Freeman has also had some smaller parts on some television shows. In the 1970s, for instance, Freeman played “Easy Reader” on the children’s show “The Electric Company.”
This interesting tidbit goes viral from time to time as social media users share images from one of Freeman’s lesser-known roles:
Freeman made regular appearances on the show during its run between 1971 and 1976 where he played a variety of characters, such as “Count Dracula,” “Marcello,” “Easy Reader,” and the above-pictured “Mel Mounds.” This image comes from the 26th episode of the Electric Company that originally aired in November 1971.
Here’s a clip of Freeman’s Mel Mounds as he teaches kids about the “br” sound as found in the name “Brenda Bradley.”
In “The Amazing Life Of Morgan Freeman,” author Matt Green writes that Freeman was largely working in stage plays around the time he auditioned for “The Electric Company.”
At the audition, Freeman was shown a variety of sketches of colorful puppet characters and went over-the-top in his audition performance, trying to captivate the silly nature of the television show. His zaniness ended up landing him the role.
In 1971, Freeman debuted on The Electric Company, a puppet-based children’s show that used sketch comedy to try to present basic educational content for elementary age children. On the show, Freeman played various comedic characters, often having to interact with puppets and animated characters. The Electric Company had a talented cast bolstering it, including already-famous Bill Cosby and Rita Moreno. Young up-and-coming actors and comedians such as Joan Rivers and Gene Wilder also appeared in some of the sketches. Freeman was given some memorable characters, such as an exaggerated portrayal of Count Dracula.
All in all, however, he felt as if his career was somewhat grounded. Freeman’s stage work continued to be successful, garnering him critical praise and a slew of Drama Desk and Tony Award nominations. However, though the Electric Company was steady work with a cast of successful fellow actors, it was doing little to advance Freeman towards his lifelong goal of appearing in the feature films he used to enjoy as a boy. Few casting agents for more serious material were perusing episodes of children television to look for potential new stars. When the Electric Company as canceled in 1976, Freeman felt as if were back at square one with his acting career, still having to scrape by at odd jobs and go to audition after fruitless audition.
Here’s another clip from “The Electric Company” featuring Freeman as the character “Easy Reader.”
In 2018, Freeman appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and talked to the TV host about his time on “The Electric Company”: