I was doing some Googling this weekend on George Romero because I’m a big fan, and that’s what I like to do with my spare time, OK? Romero, as most of you know, is the godfather of zombie movies, the man behind Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, who basically brought zombies into the mainstream. If there’s no George Romero, there’s no The Walking Dead. Anyway, I’m still not sure how I got there, but I stumbled upon an interview with Romero from four years ago in which he revealed that his first job in the industry was on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.
This is not HUGE news. Anyone that got their start out in Pittsburgh in the 60s or 70s was bound to run across Mr. Rogers Neighborhood (in fact, Michael Keaton also got his start there), but I was surprised to find out that Mr. Rogers also watched Romero’s first two zombie flicks.
From the San Francisco Gate:
Q. You worked on “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood?
A. It was my first job, man. Fred was the first guy who trusted me enough to hire me to actually shoot film.
Q. He seems to be regarded as a saint. What was your experience working with him?
A. He was a beautiful guy. He was the sweetest man I ever knew. What you see is what you get. That was Fred. In some ways he was still 10 years old. He was a wealthy guy, but very dedicated. He was a super wealthy cat — he could have just said “Forget about it.” But he was dedicated to educating kids and telling them “There’s nothing wrong with you. I like you just the way you are.”
Q. Did Fred Rogers help you as a filmmaker?
A. He was the first guy who would hire me. Everyone from Pittsburgh who I know from that period, who is still working in the business in any capacity, started with Fred. Fred was so supportive of people.
Q. Who else did you work with?
A. Michael Keaton! When I was working there Michael Keaton was a grip on Fred’s show. Everyone who’s in the biz that came from that period of time started with Fred.
Q. Did Fred Rogers see any of your films?
A. He did. He saw “Night of the Living Dead” and “Dawn of the Dead.”
Q. What in the world did Fred Rogers think about “Dawn of the Dead”?
A. He said (Romero does a pretty good Fred Rogers imitation) “It’s a lot of fun, George.” He liked “Night” a lot, too.
OK, that’s fun, and I love that Romero felt the need to state twice that Mr. Rogers was a super wealthy cat. I also love that Mr. Rogers was willing to indulge an ex-employees zombie flicks. But what I never, ever would’ve imagined is Romero wanting Lady Aberlin to be in Night of the Living Dead. But according to that interview, Mr. Rogers wouldn’t let Romero have her for his zombie films. And can you blame him? Seeing Lady Aberlin in a zombie flick might have broken my brain wide open. And yet, on the other hand, there would’ve been something kind of perfect and inspired about that casting.