Tom Hanks didn't take the role of Fred Rogers lightly. In fact, it outright terrified him.
"It was terrifying," he said of embodying the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood star. As he explained, "There's no such thing as an easy role to do. The moment I said 'yes,' I began to have the night sweats."
According to the Forrest Gump alum, all roles are scary because, well, acting is hard! This character, however, had an added level of difficulty. "Look, I have played a lot of real people," Hanks said plainly. "Fred was a very, very public persona. And everybody has an idea of what Fred is, what Fred was like, the mysteries behind Fred."
As he continued, "The terror that goes along with it is that you want to land in a place that people recognize as his true human behavior, whether you're playing somebody who's real, or somebody's who's not."
"If it's not authentic," the Toy Story actor noted, "you're actively lying in an artform that is supposed to be holding the mirror up to nature." No wonder he had the night sweats.
At another point in the interview, Hanks gave more insight into what he learned while filming It's A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood. As he shared, "Every person I talked to has said, 'When you spoke to Fred, you felt like you were only person in the world who mattered to him.'" And for the 63-year-old, that was the key characteristic he had to find a way to convey.
Part of that, he quipped, meant, "Slowing down. Not interrupting people in the middle of them asking questions."
Overall, the overarching lesson was to lead with kindness.
Sharing a moving story about the environment on set, Hanks said, "Everyday on the call sheet there was an attached quote of Fred.' And sometimes they were long, and sometimes they were very, very simple. And one was, 'The three secrets of happiness are: Be kind, be kind and be kind.' And you think, 'Well, that's mamby-pamby. That's goody two shoes. No matter what your bent is, being kind means you giving everybody a fair shake. Being kind is just being open to a possibility of making a simple choice that makes a day a little bit better."