In 1999, Karen Herman interviewed Fred Rogers for the Archive of American Television. The resulting nine-part (roughly four-and-a-half hour) interview spans the career of the man we've come to know as Mister Rogers. Throughout, Rogers conveys the same gentle, honest wisdom we all expect from the best neighbor ever. It's truly a joy to see such a thoughtful long-form discussion, and Herman truly knows her stuff (she is Director of the Archive, which is affiliated with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences -- best known for its Emmys).
Because the interview is so long, you may want to bookmark this and enjoy it in segments over the coming week. Each segment is about half an hour long. You can also watch it with interview annotations (click the "Interview" tab below the video) on the Archive of American Television site.
The Archive puts the interview in context:
Fred Rogers (1928-2003) was interviewed for four-and-a-half hours in Pittsburgh, PA. Rogers described his work as the creator and host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which began its run in 1968. He described the show’s evolution, which started with Mister Rogers which he produced in Canada for the CBC. He described each aspect of the show including the origin of his trademark sweaters. He described his early years in television working as a floor manager for NBC on such shows as NBC Opera Theatre, The Kate Smith Hour, and The Gabby Hayes Show. He detailed his move into public television in 1953 with his work as the program director for WQED, Pittsburgh. He described his first children’s program The Children’s Corner (1954-61 WQED; 1955-56 NBC), which introduced several puppets later used on Mister Rogers. He talked about the importance of children’s programming and his longevity as a childrens’ show host. The interview was conducted by Karen Herman on July 22, 1999.
"In those days you didn't speak your feelings as much as express them artistically. ... And so I was always able to cry or laugh or say I was angry through the tips of my fingers...on the piano."
"I saw this new thing called television, and I saw people throwing pies in each other's faces, and I thought, this could be a wonderful tool for education! Why is it being used this way? So I said to my parents, 'You know, I don't think I'll go into seminary right away. I think I'll go into television.'"
On producing his first show, "The Children's Corner" for the CBC.
"Deep and simple are far, far more important than shallow and complicated and fancy."
How the first "Mister Rogers" show, "Children's Corner," came to NBC.
How the show was put together in the US based on work done previously in Canada for the CBC.
Lots of topics here, but most gripping is his discussion of the special episode after RFK's assassination. To parents: "The best you can do is to include your children in your own ways of dealing with grief, because your children will know anyway, without you saying anything, how you're feeling."
Funding the show; TV's responsibility to children; his visit to the Soviet Union.
Parodies of Mister Rogers; fame; music; retirement; and death.