Morgan Freeman Recounts Daring Escapes

Academy Award-winner Morgan Freeman channels his Shawshank days, hosting a look back at some of history's most daring, ingenious jailbreaks

Academy Award-winner Morgan Freeman channels his Shawshank days, hosting a look back at some of history’s most daring, ingenious jailbreaks

Learning about some of the most notorious and expertly planned prison breaks on Great Escapes With Morgan Freeman leaves one wondering why these convicts couldn’t apply their considerable skills for the good of society.

Here, the Oscar-winning actor—who fittingly rose to fame for his role in prison drama The Shawshank Redemption—is the host, as well as the executive producer, along with Revelations Entertainment’s James Younger, Geoffrey Sharp and Lori McCreary. The show features detailed recreations of noteworthy breaches at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York; HM Prison Maze in Northern Ireland; Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Tennessee; and San Francisco’s infamous Alcatraz, among others.

The sordid tales all involve incredible acts of daring, requiring a certain amount of determination, perseverance, patience and ingenuity—made all the more impressive by the fact that they were engineered and executed over the course of months and years by what amounted to society’s discards.

“We’re trying to avoid telling stories about genuinely bad guys,” Younger explains. “What we’re focusing on is this resourcefulness that people have and the amazing level of ingenuity that people go to. That’s kind of the uplifting, human side of these stories—like, people are remarkably resourceful.”

“Whatever you really want, you’ll go and do…” Freeman adds. “There wasn’t anything outside they wanted bad enough. Staying out of prison is really a life desire.”

Last week’s opener, “Alcatraz,” recalled John and Clarence Anglin’s escape from the imposing island correctional facility in 1962. The episode walked through every last step the convicted bank robbers took in their flight to freedom, which included chiselling through vent grates in their cells, creating papier-mâché heads to be propped on pillows to fool guards, scheduling work during noisy hours so no one would hear, and whipping up a raft from prison raincoats to get off the island.

Vent grates also figure heavily into this week’s outing, which details convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat’s escape through the ventilation system of Upstate New York’s Clinton Correctional Facility in 2015. They wound up on the run for nearly three weeks before Matt was shot and killed by police and Sweat was shot, severely wounded and taken into custody.

“I think a lot of these guys have similar traits, in that they are very bright and they’re very good at psychology,” Sharp says. “A lot of them talk about using feints… They learn to have the guards look in this direction while they [go] in that direction. They’re very good at that kind of feint. Yeah, it’s a big theme for them.”

Great Escapes With Morgan Freeman airs Sunday at 9 p.m. & 11 p.m on, History