I previewed the movie last weekend and it was fantastic, a must see, beautiful and wonderful experience for all ages! Full review here!
I was surprised that the movie was not all about Mr. Rogers, but more about his nature and how he was a natural helper to all who he came in contact with. This movie centers around the character of Lloyd Vogel. The character is based on real life journalist Tom Junod, who wrote a piece on Mister Rogers over 20 years ago for Esquire Magazine. The movie centers around Lloyd’s personal growth through knowing Mister Rogers, and it is absolutely wonderful to watch! I may have cried!
Our first interview was with Mr. Junod. My first question was, how much of the movie was based on fact, versus embellishment. He explained that much of his back story was created for the movie and that is why the character was not named after him, it was not biographical. He did share that almost all of the scenes with Mister Rogers were fact based.
Mr. Junod explained to us that over 20 years ago, when the interviewing began, he had a preconceived notion about Mister Rogers, that his message of goodness was just bland. He grew to realize that Fred Rogers was “radically” good and “radically” kind, and the furthest thing from boring. That is illustrated throughout the movie. Mister Rogers makes simple, pat statements. These statements are so simple, yet so truthful and filled with love and kindness, a true gift to the world. Mister Rogers showed Tom a different way to be a man in the world, not the role models he had when he was growing up.
Matthew Rhys played Lloyd Vogel, the character based on journalist Tom Junod:
He had no idea who Mister Rogers was as he grew up in Wales, England. His wife explained it to him, as she was a huge fan, having grown up with Mister Rogers in America. She also explained that the show their 2 1/2 year old watched, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, was part of Mister Rogers legacy!
Matthew explained that having no prior knowledge of Mister Rogers was a huge help in portraying Lloyd Vogel because he stepped into the role with no pre-conceived notions. He said Mister Rogers illicits strong reactions from folks, and playing Lloyd without these notions helped him to play the role more realistically.
He also learned about what he referred to as “Fred Karate.” Fred Rogers would often deflect to the other person in conversations. When Fred would be asked a question, he might often turn it around and ask about the feelings that the other person was feeling, and then they would talk about that, and simple solutions to any situations that were discussed.
Mr. Rhys’ portrayal of Lloyd Vogel, the movie’s central character, is fantastic: Emotional, full of angst and in the end, huge personal growth. I was teary eyed throughout while watching this character’s wonderful journey of self discovery.
Susan Kelechi Watson played Andrea Vogel, Lloyd’s wife, and mother of their infant baby. Susan was thrilled when she got the role, she had grown up watching Mister Rogers as a child! She had no background on Tom Junod’s wife, so she was also able to play the role in her own way, living her best life. She absolutely loved when her character found out that Mister Rogers knew her name, she felt that was something both her character and the real life wife of Tom would feel equally strong about!
Susan’s biggest takeaway from the movie was to have more patience. Something we all struggle with! She also said that the movie reminded her of her great-grandma’s methods, she would get down to the child’s level when talking to them, a great way to communicate with children.
Lastly, Susan had a scene where she sang on the set of Mister Rogers neighborhood as Princess Lady Aberlin, during a dream sequence of Matthew’s character. This was done in the actual WQED studios where Mister Rogers original show was filmed, and many of that crew still worked there. She said it was a dream come true to be on the set, and see Trolley, it brought back incredible memories!
Joanne Rogers. Mrs. Fred Rogers. I meet a lot of celebrities in my line of work, and this is one of the rare few that are at the next level above. She was absolutely wonderful and had a blast with the parent blogger crew. You could feel the love in the room when Mrs. Rogers entered. She was one of the sweetest people I have ever met. And at 91, she lit up the room when she walked in, it was an honor to meet and chat with her.
My question to her was, were things quiet after Mister Rogers passed in 2003, up until the recent documentary, and now this movie. Mrs. Rogers shared that there was always a local event or honor to accept on his behalf, and she has stayed busy.
She also shared how much Mister Rogers loved Tom Hanks, especially after seeing Forrest Gump multiple times, and he would have been thrilled to know that Tom was playing him! What a thrill it was to sit with Joanne Rogers and drink in her own wonderful sense of being.
And there’s more! The actual puupets from the Mister ROgers set:
And me in Mister Rogers actual tie, worn on his program, and in this movie:
Lastly, I want to share one of Mister Rogers quites, one that everyone we chatted with agreed was a huge help in a time of pain:
“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”
The movie opens this Friday, November 22, 2019. It showcases Mister Rogers simple, yet brilliant wisdom, and how that affected the journalist Tom Junod and helped him on the road to personal discovery, and improved his life. The movie is heartwarming, emotional, and a MUST SEE! Buy tickets here at Fandango.com!