Morgan Freeman exudes gravitas. He has played the president and God. His name is almost synonymous with authority.
So as he patiently explains that aliens might be traveling to Earth to eat us, you can't help but feel a little nervous.
The man-eating alien scenario is just one of the possibilities Freeman explores with his Science series "Through the Wormhole," which returned for its third season Wednesday. Each episode addresses a different question about the universe, no matter how difficult or contentious. The premiere, for example, is titled, "Is There a Superior Race?"
We asked the Oscar winner, 75, his thoughts on that and other questions upcoming shows will address, including, "Did We Invent God?" and "Can We Eliminate Evil?"
We also asked about a certain evil eliminator for whom he plays inventor-in-chief in "The Dark Knight Rises." He surprised us by answering very directly when asked if his character survives the upcoming film.
You're asked to do projects like "Through the Wormhole" because have such an authoritative presence. Is that something you aspired to as a young actor?
Oh heavens no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. When I was a young actor I just set out to get work. Like the rest of us.
What drew you to answering life's big questions?
I think I just fall into a huge pot of people who are fascinated with what's out there. I used to read a lot of science fiction… particularly that of Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein and some other very interesting people, and they came up with thoughts about what's possible on Earth.
I was hoping to ask for your personal answers to some of the questions raised in upcoming episodes. The season premiere asks, "Is there a superior race?" I'm not sure if that refers to an alien race or races on Earth.
We discuss the idea of a superior race coming here. Professor Michio Kaku has an interesting discussion on it. Intelligence apparently requires an enormous amount of protein. Which is why we eat meat. Instead of being vegetarians. We have this enormous brain capacity.
Suppose a superior race did come from outer space and land here. It would need a food supply because if they were superior, they would have an even larger brain than we do. So we might — might — qualify as sustenance.
Do you think that meat-eating humans are smarter than vegetarian humans?
Ehhh. You don't want to get me in trouble here. … I don't know. The question is evolutionary. Whoever is a vegetarian today, they didn't evolve as vegetarians. They became vegetarians.
Another question from the show: Can we eliminate evil?
No. You cannot. Because if you eliminate evil you'll also eliminate good.
What is evil?
Evil is the opposite of good. Like up is the opposite of down, left is the opposite of right. You only have one because you have the other.
You don't play a lot of villains, but do you think there are villains? Because we always hear that villains don't think that they're villains?
I think that there is balance in the universe. And these questions are the questions of balance.
This next question may be the hardest, and I'm especially curious about your answer because you've played God, and had to guess how God would act…
Well, I need to play the devil now, to balance it out. [Laughs.]
Did we invent God?
So there isn't a God up in the sky somewhere. We came up with God ourselves.
Well, here's a scientific question: Has anybody ever seen hard evidence? What we get is theories from our earlier prophets. Now, people who think that God invented us think that the Earth can't be more than 6,000 years old. So I guess it's a question of belief. My belief system doesn't support a creator as such, as we can call God, who created us in His/Her/Its image.
Would you consider yourself an atheist, or agnostic?
It's a hard question because as I said at the start, I think we invented God. So if I believe in God, and I do, it's because I think I'm God.
Of the questions you ask on the show, which one was the closest to you? What did you think about the most?
Travel. The idea of travel. That incorporates two or three different questions. One is how long can we live? Is it possible for us to extend our lifespan into, I don't know, not infinity, but let's say a thousand years? If we could, the idea of space travel would become much more plausible.
Would you like to live a thousand years?
Absolutely. … You're just satisfying your curiosity. Imagine if you could live for a thousand years. Considering that — when did the Wright Brothers fly? In the next 200 years, what will we be doing?
Do you think we'll still be going to movie theaters and watching TV?
I could foresee holograms in your living room.
One of the big questions in my little universe: Will your character, Lucius Fox, make it out of the "Dark Knight Rises" alive?
How does it feel to be done with the Batman series?
I don't see it so much as being done with it. It's the end of a chapter, that's all.