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John Pattison: Why do you think [Fred Rogers] was able to penetrate even adults’ defenses?
Maxwell King: I think it was his authenticity. He was very real. He just was who he was in a very genuine way. He didn’t incorporate the usual reserves we as adults incorporate in our dealings with each other. I remember Yo-Yo Ma talked about when he first went to perform on the Neighborhood. Fred Rogers was interviewing him before he performed. Rogers came about six or eight inches from his face and just broke down all of his defenses. He got him to talk in the interview in a very genuine way.
That was also the case with a wonderful writer named Tom Junod. Junod had a reputation for being a bad boy, tough guy journalist, but his editors of Esquire assigned him to do a piece on Fred Rogers. Junod wondered if the assignment was a joke. But Junod and Rogers became fast friends. There was a whole side of Junod that he wasn’t even aware of but that came out through his friendship with Fred. This is what the movie is about that’s being shot right now with Tom Hanks playing Fred Rogers.
Fred seemed simple and gentle. But he was just fearless. He was fearless about relationships with other people, about being honest with people, about being honest with children. And he was fearless about how he used television.
- from John Pattison’s interview with Maxwell King
in our Advent 2018 magazine issue
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WATCH a brief clip of an interview with the author…