Everyone knows Mr. Rogers, and if you don’t then please do yourself a favor and brush up. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say we haven’t had anyone quite like Mister Rogers before or after Rogers himself.
He was unique in what he could do for children’s television, and now we finally have the first trailer for his biopic, It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks as Rogers and Matthew Rhys as a reporter writing a profile on him. It’s at least partly based on the famous 1998 Esquire profile by Tom Junod.
For those not in the know, Fred Rogers was a Presbyterian reverend who started his own childrens’ show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, because he didn’t see any adults teaching children the lessons he thought they would need to be healthy people in a way that was earnest and straightforward. These were lessons on kindness, empathy, facing pain and hardship, and understanding tragedy. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood went beyond telling these lessons to show them that the world could be a better place if everyone was kinder and accepted each other just as they are. It ran, in various forms, from 1968 to 2001. Fred Rogers taught millions of American kids just like me how to be neighborly, even when others weren’t kind to us, and made non-white kids just like me feel accepted, even when others didn’t feel the same way.
That’s why Tom Hanks works so well in this role. I don’t think there’s any actor who embodies that spirit of America’s Kindly Uncle better than Tom Hanks, and there was no public figure who embodied that spirit of kindness better than Fred Rogers.
From the trailer alone it seems they were made for each other. Hanks looks positively Rogers-esque. The sets look fantastic. Matthew Rhys is a fine actor. It’s difficult to say what lessons Mr. Rogers will impart on Rhys’ character (a fictional character not based on Junod) but I’m sure that we’ll all be feeling it in our guts and crying into our red cardigans.
It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood arrives this Thanksgiving.