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Fred Rogers spent his career blending fantasy and reality to bring joy to others. And the cast and crew of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood wanted to honor that legacy as they were making the film. They spoke exclusively to CinemaBlend about how they found opportunities to incorporate his fantasy world, and their own real-life experiences, while on set.
Director Marielle Heller and the film’s crew worked hard to recreate the world Fred Rogers operated in -- including his miniature neighborhood. She told CinemaBlend:
We built practically all of these miniatures. We started with the neighborhood that he had. We replicated his miniature neighborhood exactly and our idea was to take that and expand out and expand out and expand out. So, show all of Pittsburgh, and all of New York, and just let it grow and grow and grow. And we had this great team of people who were building our miniatures. They spent twelve weeks building them and then we filmed them all practically. If there were lights that needed to turn on in the miniatures, we were turning them on with a switch. You know, it was how Mr. Rogers would have done it.
Mari was very specific about the mood she wanted to set. And even on our call sheets, every day we’d get a Fred Rogers quote of how we should conduct yourself during the day. And that became -- I really became struck by them, how kind-of prophetic and profound they were, that he was this true philosopher of his age, let alone children’s entertainer. So yes, the seriousness of the work was certainly coupled by a joy that was behind the camera.
Susan Kelechi Watson plays Lloyd’s wife Angela. She told CinemaBlend that even though she is not a wife or mother, she knew the importance of incorporating real women’s perspectives into her fictional character:
I really have to open my ears and listen and watch and listen to new moms, or listen to mothers, people who’ve been doing it for a while. My friends -- what do they say? And one of the things I always remember is they are a whole person first. So I’m always looking at who is she in and of herself before she’s a wife, before she’s a mom… what is she giving up in order to have what she has?
The cast and crew's dedication to recreating Fred Rogers’ world seems to have paid off. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is earning rave reviews from critics and it's now playing in theaters.