Premiering on DVD, local PBS affiliates, and iTunes on March 20 (in honor of Mister Rogers’s birthday)
Benjamin Wagner first met Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood creator and star Fred Rogers at Rogers’s summer home in Nantucket, Massachusetts. His mother rented the cottage next door, so Mister Rogers really was his neighbor. On the afternoon of their first meeting, the television icon asked the young journalist about his job as an MTV producer. Wagner felt exposed and a tiny bit embarrassed—a PBS mind in a jump-cut, sound-bit, MTV world.
Mister Rogers said warmly, “I feel so strongly that deep and simple is far more essential than complex.”
One year and many “deep and simple” conversations later, Rogers told Wagner, “Spread the message!”
After Rogers’s death in 2003, Wagner and his brother Christofer set out to meet some of Mister Rogers’s neighbors to find out more about the man himself, what he meant by “deep and simple,” and with whom in our junk food culture those values endure.
Featured in the film are some of the notable personalities whose lives were impacted by their interactions with Mister Rogers. They include Tim Russert (NBC Meet the Press anchor), Susan Stamberg (NPR host), Marc Brown (Arthur author), Davy Rothbart (This American Life contributor), Linda Ellerbee (Nick News host), Bo Lozoff (activist and author), Amy Hollingsworth (author), Beverly Hall (photographer), and Dr. Susan Linn (children’s media expert).
In the end, the brothers come to know more than just the man and his luminous legacy. Their deeply personal journey explores the roots of Mister Rogers’s values, unmasks the forces acting against depth and simplicity, and helps them to develop the means to lead deeper, simpler lives.