The moment you see ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’, the 2019 movie by Marielle Heller, which has been written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, you will understand that the story might be based on Mister Rogers, but he is not at the center alone. Instead, Fred Rogers, the television personality who changed the lives of countless children, by reaching out to them, is shown to transform a broken and cynical man in this movie, namely Lloyd Vogel. Vogel goes to interview Rogers, and over the course of these meetings, the two become good friends.
While Vogel’s Hollywood transformation has been rather dramatic, the real-life counterpart, Tom Junod, whose profile “Can You Say… Hero?” inspired the movie, has spoken about the profound effect Rogers had on him. The reporter’s relationship with Rogers shapes much of the movie, so you might be left wondering about who Lloyd Vogel is in real life. Well, we have got you covered as we bring you the details about the character Matthew Rhys plays in the movie. Read on to know about the spectacular life of the journalist that is shown in ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’.
The Real-Life Lloyd Vogel:
Tom Junod is the real-life reporter on whom the character of Lloyd Vogel is based. When Junod first read the script for the movie, he believed that the writers had made him out to be a jerk, though he had a much more colorful term for that. However, on insistence to keep an open mind, he came to realize that the relationship between him and Rogers was not changed too much, though the rest of the facts about his life were pretty much made up.
By the time the movie came out, Junod found himself in a situation resembling a dystopic novel, where he is a character in a story written by himself. Junod has stated that it was an enthralling experience to witness an ogre-like character who is nothing like him, and yet has so much of him, out there. The transformation process felt moving to him too.Now that we are done with how Junod reacted to his portrayal on-screen, we can focus on who he is in real life.
Junod is an extremely decorated journalist who has received two National Magazine Awards from the American Society of Magazine Editors, including being a ten-time finalist for the same. To put things into perspective, the award is the most prestigious one in magazine writing. Junod, who graduated with a BA in English from the State University of New York at Albany, has worked for Esquire, following editor David Granger there, from GQ. He has also worked for the Atlanta magazine and is currently at ESPN The Magazine.
Tom Junod’s Profile:
While Junod’s profile on Fred Rogers has catapulted him to unprecedented fame, since it has been made into a huge Hollywood movie starring Tom Hanks, the man has an array of impressive articles under his belt tackling a wide range of topics. Some of his most notable pieces include ‘The Abortionist’, ‘The Rapist Says He’s Sorry’, which is about a rapist undergoing therapy while going through what is known as ‘civic commitment’, and a 2011 piece on R.E.M. lead singer, Michael Stipe, which has satirically fabricated information.
Obviously, Junod has had his share of notoriety thanks to the catty article on Kevin Spacey, which almost outed the actor and led to him calling for a Hollywood-wide boycott of Junod and Esquire. However, amidst all these prolific pieces, one still stands out, and that is ‘The Falling Man’. Junod credits the success of the elegiac Esquire piece on 9-11 to Rogers. He has said, “That story was a product of my relationship with Fred because I was able to bring a sense of theological doubt and simultaneous wonder to my work that I wasn’t quite able to do before”.
If Rogers had such a marked impact on Junod’s professional life, it is only logical that the man would influence his personal life as well. Junod has had no compunctions noting how Fred made him and his wife, Janet, better to their adopted daughter Nia. Interestingly, Junod and his wife decided to adopt thanks to Fred’s optimism and encouragement. As parents, they have often ended up asking each other, what would Fred do. Junod has gone to the extent of commenting, “I’m at my best as a father when I try to think what Fred Rogers would do, and I’m probably at my worst when I think what my own father would do.”
This brings us to Junod’s past, which was rather fictionalized in the movie for dramatic effect. While Junod’s father, Lou, was a faithless husband, a sharp dresser, a handbag salesman, a lounge singer, as well as a self-mythologizing figure, Junod still idolized him and wanted to be him. Despite his philandering and scoundrel-like ways, he did not abandon his dying wife, as the movie showed. Instead, he was with her until the end.
Notably, Junod has observed that probably to his mother’s great satisfaction and relief, she outlasted him. When Tom met Fred, he was pondering about the human cost of his career as a journalist. Fred, not only showed him the right path, helping him better his work but also taught Tom to be a better father. Ultimately, Junod chose Fred’s example, viewing him as a father figure, and was cured of wanting to be like his own dad.
Thus, Junod was relieved to see his portrayal on-screen being one of forgiveness and feelings, because he was a broken man in real-life till Fred Rogers helped to heal him, and for that, the journalist will forever remain indebted to Rogers. Notably, Junod has also appeared in the critically acclaimed documentary on Rogers’ life, titled ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’.
Apart from his stellar professional career, and wholesome personal life, Junod has won the 2011 James Beard Award for the essay, ‘My Mom Couldn’t Cook’. He is reportedly writing a book about his experiences with his father, currently. He has also reported to The Atlantic that he is planning on writing a book to share his story of Fred Rogers more accurately.