McFeely actor hosts ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor’ opening in Ligonier
When Mr. McFeely dropped by “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” on the long-running children’s television program, the mailman always delivered a friendly “speedy delivery” greeting.
McFeely’s alter ego, David Newell, will pay a visit to Ligonier to host the opening night of a three-night showing of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” at 8 p.m. Aug. 24 at the Diamond Theatre.
He will welcome families and introduce the film, and answer questions and sign autographs -- as David Newell, not Mr. McFeely, he says -- at its conclusion.
The documentary from Focus Films by Academy Award-winning producer/director Morgan Neville (“20 Feet from Stardom”) opened in theaters around the country on June 8, following its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.
Since its opening, Newell says the film has had a great response, especially from adults that grew up watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” from 1968 to 2001 on public television, including WQED-TV in Pittsburgh, where it was filmed.
There’s even some “Oscar buzz” that the documentary is favored to win an Academy Award, he says.
Newell, who worked with Fred Rogers for more than 35 years, has had several requests from theaters in Pennsylvania and in other states to make guest appearances since the documentary of Rogers’ life opened. Rogers passed away in 2003.
Newell, who also served as an associate producer and properties manager on “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” and public relations director for Family Communications Inc., still portrays his Mr. McFeely character at special events.
He recalls one of his favorite memories of Rogers, which took place during the taping of the last episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
The script called for Mr. McFeely to make his usual entrance with his “speedy delivery” greeting and a “see you around the neighborhood” or similar exit.
But as he was leaving Mister Rogers’ TV house that day, he says “I decided to shake his hand as I was saying ‘speedy delivery’. The handshake was for me a ‘Thank you and it has been wonderful knowing and working with you for all these 35 years.’”