"Playing God is simply a matter of learning a script. It didn't require research beyond that," actor-director Morgan Freeman said nonchalantly during National Geographic's panel for "The Story of God with Morgan Freeman" at the Television Critics Association press tour last week in Pasadena, Calif.
The project explores religion across the globe, as well as the function of God in any given society. "The Story of God" will air on National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo Mundo during the spring in the United States, as well as globally in 171 countries and 45 languages.
Morgan, 78, collaborated with executive producers Lori McCreary and James Younger and Freeman, recreating the same trio who previously collaborated on Discovery's "Through the Wormhole."
"The Story of God is one of the greatest mysteries and most important ideas in the world," Freeman previously had told Deadline in Hollywood. "For me, this is a personal and enduring quest to understand the divine, and I am humbled by the opportunity to take viewers along on this incredible journey."
McCreary explained at the panel session that when she and Freeman had been in a mosque, she was surprised to learn Islam included tales of the life of Jesus Christ and was struck by how much she didn't know, reports the Los Angeles Times.
"Maybe exploring this [religion] would help enlighten and enrich us," McCreary said.
Younger said the team also was driven to make this by seeing all of the misunderstanding and difficulties centered around religion in the world today. "We were motivated to say, 'Let's go there and see what religions have in common.' What we found is a remarkable commonality between religions."
However, Freeman said the series seemed stymied by limitations of trying to reduce such a complex subject down to six hour-long installments. He said they eventually were forced to focus on the "big five:" the three Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) as well as Buddhism and Hinduism, reports Los Angeles Times.
"We had to cut away a lot that we wanted to talk about because there just wasn't time. We wanted to be able to dig deep into the religions we addressed," said McCreary.
When asked at the panel session what they would ask the Divine given the opportunity, they didn't hesitate.
McCreary wondered, "What's the key to unifying us all as Your children?"
Freeman got straight to the point, "What do You think now?"
Younger, a former scientist, opted for the most universal question of all: "Why?"
Freeman's other religion and God-related works include: "Through the Wormhole," "Am I Here For A Reason?" "Bruce Almighty," and "Evan Almighty."
Each Story of God episode reportedly will center on one big question, from the mystery of creation and the true power of miracles, to the promise of resurrection.
Freeman will host the series from some of the world's greatest religious sites, such as Jerusalem's Wailing Wall, India's Bodhi Tree, Mayan temples and the Lakewood megachurch in Texas. He'll also travel with archeologists to uncover the long-lost religions of our ancestors, such as the 10,000-year-old ruins at Gobekli Tepe in Turkey or the ancient Celtic monument at Stonehenge.
The Story of God was produced by Revelations Entertainment for National Geographic Channel.