Tom Hanks Admits Playing Mister Rogers Was 'Terrifying': 'I Had Night Sweats'
Mister Rogers is one of the most beloved figures in the history of American pop culture, but portraying the adored children’s show host was nothing short of “terrifying,” Tom Hanks told CBS This Morning.
The Oscar winner, 63, plays Fred Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which opens today.
“There’s no such thing as an easy role to do,” Hanks said. “The moment I said ‘yes,’ I began to have the night sweats.”
Rogers was known for his charm, human understanding, and ability to connect with people across all backgrounds. The former minister famously used his children’s show platform to discuss complex social issues and break them down in a beautifully simple way easy enough for kids to understand. His show, Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, ran for 33 years and made him a household name for generations.
But the fact that Rogers was such a well-known and admired figure made playing him onscreen even harder, Hanks said.
“Fred was a very, very public persona,” Hanks noted. “And everybody has an idea of what Fred is, what Fred was like, the mysteries behind Fred.”
“‘You are a very valuable human being. Doesn’t matter who you are’ — that’s what I think Fred was able to make people feel,” Hanks said. “Fred made people feel worthwhile.”
Hanks went on, adding, “Every person I talked to said when you spoke to Fred, you felt like you were the only person that mattered to him. It’s a gift, but it’s also a practice.”
That loving personality took practice, Hanks said, and help from those who knew Rogers best. He spent time with Rogers’ wife, Joanne, who helped him get to know who Rogers was, even lending him the television icon’s ties.
Hanks said he needed to work on listening and slowing down his conversations while getting into the role. Rogers excelled at listening, understanding, and showing compassion to every person he met.
Everyday on the call sheet, Hanks said there would be a quote from Rogers. One said, “The three secrets of happiness are: Be kind, be kind and be kind” — something that clearly stuck out with the actor who’s used to playing “good guy” roles.
“No matter what your bent is, being kind means you giving everybody a fair shake,” Hanks said. “Being kind is just being open to a possibility of making a simple choice that makes a day a little bit better.”
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is now playing.