“WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?”

February 08, 2019 at 4:45 am

What was it like being a member of  “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood?” Nicholas Ma, the son of musician Yo-Yo Ma, who was a frequent guest on the iconic show, gives us an intimate look at the man whose life lessons continue to influence.

Don’t miss the TV premiere of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” on HBO and PBS February 9th at 8pm.

Aired on February 7, 2019.

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>>> MR. ROGERS, THIS SOFT-SPOKEN
MINISTER, TV PERSONALITY,
WRITER, PRODUCER AND MUSICIAN
WAS WELCOMED INTO HOMES ACROSS
AMERICA FOR MORE THAN 30 YEARS
THROUGH HIS BELOVED TELEVISION
PROGRAM, "MR. ROGERS
NEIGHBORHOOD."
HE SPOKE DIRECTLY TO YOUNG
CHILDREN ABOUT SOME OF THE
HEAVIEST ISSUES.
NOW, IN THE DOCUMENTARY TITLED
"WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR"
PREMIERING ON HBO AND PBS, WE
GET AN INTIMATE LOOK AT THE
STORY BEHIND THIS TIMELESS
CHILDREN'S SHOW.
>> WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?
IT'S AN INVITATION TO HELP
SOMEBODY KNOW THAT THEY'RE
LOVED.
AND CAPABLE OF LOVING.
LOVE IS AT THE ROOT OF
EVERYTHING.
LOVE OR THE LACK OF IT.
CHILDREN HAVE VERY DEEP
FEELINGS, JUST THE WAY EVERYBODY
DOES.
THERE MUST BE TIMES WHEN YOU DO
FEEL BLUE.
I'M NOT FEELING BLUE RIGHT NOW
THOUGH.
>> ME NEITHER.
>> THANK YOU FOR WHATEVER YOU DO
TO BRING JOY AND HOPE.
LIGHT AND LOVE TO OUR WORLD
TODAY.
§ PLEASE WON'T YOU BE MY
NEIGHBOR §
>> WITH MORE ON THIS AWARD
WINNING FILM IS THE PRODUCER
NICHOLAS MANN.
SO MANY DIFFERENT THEMES AND
DIFFERENT FACETS THAT WE GET A
THIS FILM.
BUT ONE OF THE ISSUES THAT KEEPS
GETTING ADDRESSED IS WHAT WAS HE
REALLY LIKE BEHIND THE SCENES?
PEOPLE SEEM TO KEEP ASKING IS HE
REALLY LIKE THAT IN REAL LIFE?
REFERRING TO THE WAY HE APPEARED
ON CAMERA.
AND I JUST WANT TO ASK WHY DID
YOU FEEL IT WAS IMPORTANT TO
INCLUDE THAT?
>> YEAH, IT'S INTERESTING.
I THINK THERE'S A SAD PART AND A
HAPPY PART OF THAT QUESTION.
YOU KNOW, WHAT WAS HE REALLY
LIKE?
THE SAD PART IS OUR SUSPICION AS
PEOPLE THAT SOMEHOW SOMEONE WHO
IS OUTSIDE OF THE MOLD OF WHAT
IT TRADITIONALLY MEANT TO BE A
MAN OR TRADITIONALLY MEANT TO
TALK TO CHILDREN THAT SOMEHOW
THERE WAS SOMETHING SUSPICIOUS
ABOUT THAT.
I THINK THAT'S SAD BECAUSE I
THINK IT REMINDS US THAT WE
OFTEN CLOISTER PEOPLE INTO ROLES
IN OUR WORLD MORE THAN WE
REALIZE WE DO.
BUT I THINK THE HAPPY SIDE OF
THAT OR THE IMPORTANT SIDE OF
THAT IS AS YOU PEEL BACK THE
LAYERS OF THE ONION OF FRED, YOU
REALIZE THIS PERSON HE PRESENTS
HIMSELF AS IS A CHOICE.
HE HAS CHOSEN TO BE THAT PERSON
RELENTLESSLY IN HIS LIFE.
I THINK THERE'S SOMETHING
WONDERFUL AND AFFIRMING FOR US
WE HAVE THE ABILITY TO CHOOSE
WHO WE WANT TO BE IN OUR LIVES.
THAT'S THE MESSAGE HE SENDS TO
CHILDREN AND TO US NOW AS ADULTS
AS WELL.
REMINDER THOSE ARE CHOICES WE
MAKE.
WE CAN BRING THE BEST OF WHO WE
ARE TO THE WORLD.
>> ONE OF THE OTHER THINGS THAT
WAS SO INTERESTING, THE FILM
REMINDS US OF HOW RADICAL MR.
ROGERS WAS IN A LOT OF WAYS.
YOU KNOW, HE DEALT WITH SOME
REALLY DIFFICULT ISSUES LIKE
DEATH AND DIVORCE AND WAR WITH
YOUNG CHILDREN AND SPECIFICALLY
ONE OF THE PARTS THAT STOOD OUT
TO ME WHEN HE ADDRESSED THE
ISSUE OF ASSASSINATION.
THIS IS EARLY ON IN THE SHOW.
IT WAS RIGHT AFTER BOBBY KENNEDY
HAD BEEN KILLED AND HE ACTUALLY
FOR PRESCHOOLERS TOOK THAT ON.
>> YEAH, I THINK IT WAS THE
MOMENT WE KNEW WE HAD A FILM.
MORGAN AND I WENT DOWN IN
FEBRUARY OF 2016.
WE SAW THAT EPISODE AND WE WERE
FLOORED.
WE HAD GOOSE BUMPS.
BECAUSE HERE WAS SOMEONE WHO
HADN'T BEEN ON TELEVISION EVEN A
YEAR, WHO SAW THE FACT THAT
BOBBY KENNEDY HAS BEEN
ASSASSINATED AND THAT THE
FUNERAL WOULD HAPPEN ON A
SATURDAY WHEN KIDS ARE AT HOME
AND WATCHING TELEVISION, WHO
UNDERSTOOD THAT PARENTS MIGHT
NOT HAVE THE LANGUAGE FOR HOW TO
EXPLAIN WHAT HAD HAPPENED TO
THIS COUNTRY, TO THEM, TO OUR
SENSE -- TO OURSELF AS A NATION.
AND WHO SPENT TWO SLEEPLESS
NIGHTS PUTTING TOGETHER A
PROGRAM TO AIR FOR THE COUNTRY
TO SAY, HEY, HERE'S HOW WE CAN
TALK ABOUT THIS WITH CHILDREN.
I THINK THE FACT THAT HE WAS
ABLE TO DO THAT, THE FACT THAT
HE WAS ABLE TO REDUCE SUCH AN
EMOTIONALLY AND POLITICALLY
COMPLEX SET OF IDEAS INTO WHAT
DOES A CHILD NEED TO HEAR IN
THIS MOMENT GAVE HIM THE COURAGE
TO KEEP DOING THAT WITH ALL OF
THE OTHER ISSUES.
>> ONE OF THE OTHER THINGS THAT
I THOUGHT WAS REALLY INTERESTING
WAS YOU ALSO GOT INTO THE FACT
THAT SOME OF HIS METHODS WERE A
LITTLE CONTROVERSIAL.
>> YEAH.
I MEAN, I THINK -- I THINK FRED
WAS SOMEONE WHO HAD A REALLY
GOOD SENSE OF HUMOR.
AND I THINK, YOU KNOW, THAT'S
NOT THE PART OF HIM THAT HE
BROUGHT TO THE SHOW.
RIGHT?
YOU KNOW, I THINK HE HAD QUITE A
SERIOUS DEMEANOR, BUT BEHIND THE
SCENES THERE WAS A LOT OF
LAUGHTER AMONGST THE SET.
THE CREW WAS SUCH AN INCREDIBLY
DIVERSE SET OF PEOPLE.
>> WHEN IT CAME TO PUTTING THE
FILM TOGETHER, AT THE END YOU
GOT INTO THE ISSUE OF THE TIMING
OF THE FILM AT LEAST AND WHAT
WOULD MR. ROGERS THINK OF THE
WORLD NOW.
AND ONE OF THE PEOPLE WHO YOU
INTERVIEWED THAT STRUCK ME THE
MOST WAS I BELIEVE SHE WORKED
FOR NPR --
>> SANDBERG.
>> YEAH.
SHE SAID THAT SHE WASN'T SURE IF
THERE ROGERS WOULD SORT OF PACK
UP DANIEL THE TIGER AND GO HOME
BUT PRETTY SURE HE'D TRY.
WHAT STRUCK ME SHE SAID RIGHT
NOW FEELS SO DAUNTING AND THAT
REALLY GOT AT ME.
BECAUSE THIS IS SOMEONE WHO HAD
HAD A CHANCE TO BE AROUND FOR
AND LIVE THROUGH WHAT WAS A VERY
TURBULENT TIME OF '68 TO SAY
THAT NOW SEEMS SO DAUNTING.
>> I THINK IT IS DAUNTING AND I
THINK WE SEE THAT A LITTLE BIT
IN THAT 9/11 FOOTAGE OF FRED
TRYING TO FIND THE LANGUAGE TO
TALK TO FAMILIES AND CHILDREN
ABOUT 9/11.
BUT I THINK THAT FRED HAD A WAY
OF REDUCING COMPLICATED PROBLEMS
TO HUMAN PROPORTION.
AND I THINK HE ASKS US IN ALL OF
HIS SPEECHES TO REMEMBER THOSE
PEOPLE WHO LOVE US BEYOND ALL
MEASURE AND ENCOURAGE US TO BE
TRUE TO THE BEST WITHIN US.
AND I THINK IN REMEMBERING THOSE
PEOPLE IN OUR OWN LIVES, WE ARE
ENCOURAGED TO BE THOSE PEOPLE IN
OTHER PEOPLE'S LIVES.
IF WE CAN HOLD TO THAT WHILE THE
WAY FORWARD MAY BE UNCLEAR, THE
NEXT STEP SEEMS VERY DOABLE.
I THINK THAT'S WHAT HE WOULD
LEAVE US WITH.
>> WELL, BEFORE I LET YOU GO, I
WANT TO ASK YOU BECAUSE YOU
WERE -- YOU WERE ACTUALLY ON MR.
ROGERS NEIGHBORHOOD.
HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?
>> I WAS.
I WAS.
I WAS ON THE SHOW TWICE.
ONCE WHEN I WAS 6 AND ONCE WHEN
I WAS 16.
MY FATHER WHO IS INTERVIEWED IN
THE DOCUMENTARY AND IS THE
CELLIST YO YO MA HAD MET FRED
AFTER A CONCERT AND HE LOVED
MUSIC AND HE KNEW THAT MY SISTER
AND I LOVED FRED ROGERS AND HE
ASKED HIM TO COME ON THE SHOW
AND THEN HE ASKED THE WHOLE
FAMILY TO COME ON.
AND TO THINK THAT 30 YEARS AFTER
FIRST MEETING FRED TO BE ABLE TO
BRING THIS DOCUMENTARY TO THE
WORLD FEELS LIKE A REMINDER OF
THAT PRESCIENT VISION THAT HE
HAD FOR CHILDREN AND FOR US AS A
COUNTRY.
>> WELL, THERE'S DEFINITELY A
THREAD OF LOVE THAT YOU CAN FEEL
THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE FILM.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR MAKING
THIS FILM.
>> THANK YOU.
>>> WATCH THE TV PREMIERE OF
"WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR" 8:00
ON PBS AND ON HBO.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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