Mister Rogers movie filmed next to CMI

Movie crew takes over Chinese restaurant


Photo by Jared Murphy

Trucks line Third Avenue adjacent to Thayer Hall. Production crews took over a block on Wood Street while working on production for “You Are My Friend,” starring Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers.

Written By Sarah Gibson, Co-News Editor

Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks and a full film crew became Point Park’s neighbors Monday during filming for the movie “You Are My Friend.” Filming took place inside the Mandarin Gourmet restaurant on the corner of 4th Avenue and Wood Street, adjacent to the Center for Media Innovation (CMI).

Directed by Marielle Heller, the film focuses on the relationship between public television legend Fred Rogers (Hanks) and reporter Tom Junod, played by Matthew Rhys. In the movie, Junod, a cynical journalist, writes a profile on Mr. Rogers, and his perspective on life is changed after spending time with the childhood icon.

Production members for the Rogers-inspired film used the CMI studio to shoot a video press kit for the movie. Extras and other production members gathered in the lobby of the YWCA during breaks and in between scenes.

The sidewalk running along entrances to Mandarin Gourmet, the YWCA and the CMI were blocked off from morning until the mid-afternoon by production in order to eliminate foot traffic.

Tucker Jackson, a personal assistant for the production, felt the filming process that day had presented challenges.

“Setting up has been exhausting,” Jackson said. “We have to stop traffic a whole bunch…it’s sunny outside. It’s kind of hot. There’s a lot of people walking by. It’s just a tough location to shoot at because of all the foot traffic. You have to stop a bunch of people.”

Jackson remained in the lobby of the YWCA for extended periods of time, guiding extras and those who entered and exited the building during shooting.

Extras gathered in quiet clusters wearing era-appropriate attire while Jackson called cues as to when the set started rolling in the adjacent space.

Lisa Alexander, one of the extras, clad in a navy blue dress with pearls, explained that this was her first time as an extra in a movie.

“It’s been really an interesting experience,” Alexander said. “This is the first time I’ve done anything like this and probably the last time I’ll do anything like this.”

Alexander attended the open casting call with her 13 year-old son because he expressed interest in being in the film. However, Alexander was called to be in the movie while her son was not. While she said it saddened her to experience the set without her son, she enjoyed seeing behind the scenes of a movie and how many times scenes needed to be shot.

Michael DiPadova, director of building services for the YWCA, was in charge of maintaining the building and setting up the YWCA for the shoot. This involved preparing a floor for movie personnel to gather, setting up tables for those people and keeping facilities clean. DiPadova was outwardly very excited for the event.

“I think it’s exciting for the city,” DiPadova said. “I think it’s something that’s like a once-in-a-lifetime thing for me to be a part of, so I enjoyed today.”

The film’s production begins after this summer’s release of the critically-acclaimed documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” The documentary followed Rogers’ life from an isolated child into a national star.

“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which made Rogers a household name, aired over 800 episodes across 33 years. The show ended in 2001, just one year before Rogers died of stomach cancer.