From what I’ve heard, working on the upcoming Mister Rogers biopic certainly was A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood for Enrico Colantoni. The former Veronica Mars star plays the humorless President of the Fred Rogers Company, Bill Isler, in the film. Acting as a surrogate bodyguard to the children’s television host, his role, though tiny, helped keep Mister Rogers on track.
I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Colantoni the day after A Beautiful Day premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival about his experiences with both Tom Hanks and Mister Rogers. See what he had to say down below and enjoy!
I was at the premiere last night. How did it feel to be here for it in your hometown?
Enrico Colantoni: You know, I’m going to preface it with it’s always been a pain in the ass. You can’t get anywhere. It’s like it’s everywhere. Everybody wants to know, “are you going to TIFF?” “What are you seeing at TIFF?” It’s part of everybody conversation growing up in Toronto and it’s been that way for how many years. But just to be able to not get on a plane. Roll out of bed, get in the car, and go to such an event. I’m kind of tickled by it; it’s amazing to be a part of it. Because when you’re not a part of it, it’s intrusive. But if you’re in it, and you get to play in it, it’s pretty wonderful.
Was it a special event for you last night? Did you have any relatives here?
Enrico Colantoni: No, my relatives came to the screening this morning and that was the first time I saw it. It was a press screening, so a lot of the people that have been here saw it with me today. But last night was the “smile and wave” kind of thing.
Yeah, I noticed.
Enrico Colantoni: We bugged out.
Why? I guess that’s just how it goes, right?
Enrico Colantoni: Yeah, I think it’s because one, there weren’t seats and two –
You couldn’t get a seat into your own premiere? (It’s at this point in the conversation that an assistant calls the actor’s bluff. “No!” She projects from the other side of the room)
Enrico Colantoni: No, I’m kidding. But there were other places to go. There was a second screening, and then there was a dinner with Sony, and then there was just other stuff that if we’d stayed and watched the film [we wouldn’t be able to get the other stuff done]. But everybody else in the cast had seen it anyway.
And you hadn’t? Did you like it?
Enrico Colantoni: Yeah, well, more than just liked it. I had read it. I’m glad that it was still the film that I had signed up for, and even more so. But, you know, I was a fan of Matthew’s with The Americans, but we all have a special place in our hearts for Mr. Hanks. We can name six movies, just rattle them off, and how he’s affected us. From Big to Forrest Gump, he’s always present in our lives. And to see him up there and to not remember him and see Fred Rogers and to see my mug pop up every so often, it was like, “oh, shit.” And then to get lost in the story again, and to be moved by it, and to be reminded of the simplicity of the message that we all need to hear. And how we’re all Lloyd.
We are all Lloyd. We all have a wall and we all need to come up and let the wall crumble and come back to [the] consciousness of what is present. That beauty is present. That beauty is real and it’s right in front of us every time. We’re so distracted. By wanting the very thing that we seek, we fuck it up be seeking for it everywhere else. In our work. In our addictions. In our vanity. In our obsession with something else, though the thing itself that we’re looking for is right here. And it all starts with someone reminding you that, “I’ll listen to you. What’s your story? Are you sad? Are you mad? What do you do with those feelings?” It’s like a self-help movie: you just listen to the movie, you do what Fred Rogers says, you’re going to be a happy human being. You’re going to be a happy human.