Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers: Yay or Nay?


Kathryn Coffey

Picture this: Tom Hanks, famous film star of such classic movies such as “Forrest Gump,” “the Polar Express,” and the “Toy Story” franchise, has a big project on his hands. He’s going to be chosen to play the late Fred Rogers on an upcoming biopic titled “You Are My Friend.” Now here’s the big question: what are your thoughts?  

Well, I say that Hollywood couldn’t have chosen anyone better. Most people might agree that Hanks is one of those American giants that are meant to take on classic roles that help define this country. He’s the sort of guy that could pull off a flawless performance as Teddy Roosevelt or FDR. Heck, he seemed to pull off Walt Disney alright in “Saving Mr. Banks.”    

Furthermore, Hanks and Rogers do have a couple of things in common. They seem to be dedicated to making entertainment that doesn’t undermine their audience. They are also childhood icons for many people, including myself. It seems like a match made in heaven.

However, it does make me wonder how Hank’s is going to handle the role. I could even argue that his Forrest Gump voice is almost reminiscent of Mister Rogers himself. He doesn’t exactly look like the role, but he could fill the role in other ways. Then again, I do get very picky when it comes to representing my favorite pieces of media.     

You may not know this about me, but I enjoy Mister Rogers very much. Not only do I remember watching episodes from “The Neighborhood” when I was younger, but I also re-watch episodes, sometimes. Personally, there’s nothing better than watching the reruns.   

Even so, I also enjoy a modern spin on Rogers’s words and message. “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” seems like a reasonable follow-up to “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Ideally, I would rather put on the old episodes since the real magic couldn’t really be re-captured. But as it is, it’s harmless, bright, and colorful.    

But even ignoring that, YouTube artist melodysheep made two remixes from the episodes for PBS Digital Studios. And with both of these songs, I highly recommend you take a listen, especially the B-side “Sing Together.” The artist made the remixes in such a fashion that was neither insulting nor degrading–I guess I get picky about remixes as well. Mister Rogers may not be alive anymore, but his words will always live on.       

Now, I never met him personally, but I have a feeling I would have been like many others who have. The many people who have worked with or interacted with him have said marvelous things. It felt refreshing when the news mentions personal anecdotes or famous quotes associated with Rogers. I get such a good feeling when I read an article about how Rogers’s legacy is shown even today.    

In the world we know right now, do we need Mister Rogers songs and sense of reassurance more than ever? Yes. Would we find it easier to be nicer to people? Perhaps. Would 2016 have been a different year if Rogers was still alive? Definitely. For better or worse, most definitely. But all we have what he had left behind. And what he has left behind can far outshine any mortal life.

He was a fountain of wisdom and kindness, and from what I’ve heard, he was the sort of person who could be just as kind on-screen as he is off-screen. With all that in mind, I’m still optimistic about Hanks as Rogers. All the same, Hanks does have very large shoes to fill, thanks, in part, to considering that technically there’s more than one pair of them.