If you want to earn Morgan Freeman's respect, you'd better mask up and help stem the spread of Covid-19.
The iconic actor and other celebrities voice a new national public health campaign that rolls out this week. The office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo initiated the push, with Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow and producer Jane Rosenthal developing the spots with the Ad Council.
A pair of :30s dropped on Thursday. Here's "You Have My Respect," narrated by Freeman (himself an Oscar winner):
"I may never have met you," the voiceover begins, running over images of masked faces. "We don't go way back. Maybe we wouldn't even be friends if we did. But when you wear a mask, you have my respect. Because your mask doesn't protect you, it protects me. I wear my mask to protect you."
Next, Jeffrey Wright—the Westworld star who also played Felix Leiter in the recent James Bond films—hits similar themes, aided by footage from a mask-production factory:
"There's a way to stop the spread of coronavirus," Wright says. "There's a way to protect others. There's a way to keep your family safe. New York figured it out. The answer weighs less than an ounce. It's not a heavy lift."
Each ad closes with the line "Be New York tough. Mask up, America."
The epicenter of America's pandemic just a few months ago, New York has seen infections, hospitalizations and fatalities decline dramatically. Cuomo attributes such momentum in large part to aggressive mask protocols, and he urges the rest of the nation to follow his lead.
Robert De Niro, Kaitlyn Dever, Jamie Foxx, John Leguizamo, Anthony Mackie, Rosie Perez and Ellen Pompeo will narrate upcoming series entries. The campaign will air in donated media slots nationwide.
"New Yorkers suffered gravely when this pandemic hit our state, and as we see other states battle the surge of Covid-19, we want to be sure all Americans know what we know here—that it is essential to wear a mask in order to protect one another," Cuomo says in a statement.
"We can only beat this virus if we are united as one, not divided by ideology or politics," he says. "In that spirit, we worked with the best and most creative team to deliver this vital message in multiple ways and in different voices—I wear a mask to protect you, and you wear a mask to protect me. It is simple as that: 'Mask Up America.' "
Cuomo took flak this week for his "New York Tough" poster, a 22-by-28-inch banner that chronicles the state's battle with the virus and sells for $11.50. While widely praised for his handling of the crisis, Cuomo garnered some rebukes for appearing to declare victory, in poster form, when Covid-19 could stage a comeback in New York, as it has across California and the Sun Belt.