Joanne Rogers, Pittsburgh’s ‘luckiest widow’ savors seeing, appearing in Mister Rogers movie
Joanne Rogers calls herself the luckiest widow in Pittsburgh.
The presence of her late husband, Fred Rogers, is everywhere.
“He is just there,” she said of Mister Rogers. “I don’t have to give up all of him. And, you know, thank goodness. I’m just fortunate.”
The movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” opens Friday in theaters across the country.
Viewers can even catch a glimpse of Joanne Rogers in the film. She agreed to appear in a scene at The Mandarin Gourmet Restaurant in Downtown Pittsburgh. Fittingly, she and her husband loved Chinese food.
“We enjoyed Chinese food,” Rogers said Thursday while talking to reporters inside the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District. “I got to see a lot of old friends shooting that scene.” (David Newell, who played Mr. McFeely on the show was in the scene as well.) “It was 7:30 in the morning, so we had a Chinese breakfast. I really enjoyed being in the movie. I really enjoyed seeing the entire movie.”
When she was first handed the movie script, she read it and had no changes.
“This script was perfect,” Joanne Rogers said. “We trusted them.””
And the idea of Tom Hanks in the role of her husband was ideal.
I was like, ‘Are you kidding?’ when they told me about Tom Hanks,” Rogers said. “Tom Hanks was Fred’s favorite actor. And I didn’t know until recently they were sixth cousins.”
Joanne Rogers said Fred watched Hanks’ film “Forrest Gump” more than 40 times. “And each time he watched it he learned something new,” she said.
Fred never forgot how to think as a child. She said that’s one reason he loved watching Hanks in the movie “Big,” about a young boy who magically becomes an adult overnight.
She also had faith in actress Maryann Plunkett, who plays her in the movie. “She did an amazing job,” said Joanne Rogers, who met with Plunkett as part of her research.
Joanne Rogers attended a red carpet event Wednesday at the SouthSide Works Cinema with the movie’s director, Marielle Heller.
“Seeing the movie didn’t make me cry, because everything I see about Fred is a gift,” she said. “One of my favorite parts is when Lloyd Vogel’s wife finds out her husband is going to interview Mister Rogers. She tells him to not ruin her childhood memory of Mister Rogers.’”
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, [email protected] or via Twitter .