Morgan Freeman is a well-known lover of the blues — and, in fact, an owner of the Ground Zero blues club in Mississippi, named for the blues roots in the Mississippi Delta region.
That said, the actor’s love of the blues didn’t have its beginning in Chicago, a crucial city in the development of that genre. “When I lived in Chicago, as a kid, it was back in the big band era. It was during the 1940s, World War II. So, I was familiar with the music stars of that time:Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five, and groups like that.
“I wasn’t until I left Chicago that I got into the blues.”
While there’s no blues music in Freeman’s new film, “Just The Beginning” (opening Friday), the Oscar winner did admit during our interview in Los Angeles that “a high point of making this was the scene we had with Johnny Mathis.” The legendary crooner appears at a party event in the film — as a surprise for Rene Russo’s character, because it’s learned she’s obsessed with Mathis.
As it turns out, Russo didn’t have to act too much to look convincingly overwhelmed when she first spies Mathis in the film. “I’m actually really crazy about Johnny Mathis. When I was younger — actually quite a bit younger! — I literally fell asleep every night listening to Nat King Cole or Johnny Mathis.
“When we filmed that scene in the movie, I became a totally silly fan. It was so special. I was taking all these selfies and other photos — and couldn’t wait to send those pictures to my mom. It was a high point for her and for me!”
Freeman agreed “getting Johnny to be in the movie was a special, smart move by Ron [Shelton, the movie’s director and screenwriter]. Not only was he so sweet to work with — he still has his voice!”