June 11, 2012

By Graydon Gordian

A Strong Sense of Pride: Matt Rogers on His Work with the U.S. Military

Matt Rogers with Rosita, Elmo, Gordon and the Marine Corps band.

Matt Rogers is the host of Lifetime’s Coming Home. On Memorial Day he performed Sesame Street’s new resiliency anthem with Elmo, Rosita, Gordon and the Marine Corps band. We recently sat down with Matt to talk about his Memorial Day performance, his admiration for our servicemen and women, and how he became the host of Coming Home.

Tell me a bit about the performance on the Intrepid on Memorial Day.

I had a blast. I felt like I was in my element. I’m a father of two and being in that role with two small kids is so much fun. When you’re doing something that you love to do, it doesn’t feel like work. It feels like fun.  It felt great to be able to go out there and help these military families take their mind off what they’re going through.

You performed with Elmo, Rosita, Gordon and the Marine Corps Band. Was that fun?

Working with Roscoe Orman (who plays Gordon), Kevin Clash (who performs Elmo), Carmen Osbahr (who performs Rosita) and Wanda Witherspoon (Sesame Workshop’s Assistant Vice President of Events) was so much fun. And any time you work with the military you know they are going to be on point. They made it easy. It was very professional and everyone was prepared, which made it fun because it was smooth. Everyone was on the same page, working towards the same goal. You’re not just entertaining people, you’re helping these kids.

Your passion for our men and women in uniform is palpable. How did supporting our military become such an important cause for you?

I’ve always supported our military. I don’t come from a military family, but my great grandfather was in World War I. My grandfather was in World War II. My uncles were in Vietnam. My cousins were in Iraq. And I love entertainment – being in front of the camera, making people laugh – so putting that together with something I love is just a no brainer.

Honestly, the troops don’t get paid what they’re worth. To go in there and do anything for them helps because they are underappreciated, underrated and underpaid. In that sense, I’m there for them, but in another sense I’m there for me too. I was brought up with a strong sense of pride for our military. If there is anything I can do for them, I do it.

Was it fun to work with Sesame Street on this?

Absolutely. When Sesame Street calls, you say, “Heck ya!” The Sesame Street brand is timeless. It’s going to be here 100 years from now. To be able to work them, you’re working with the best. It’s like a golfer getting a call from Tiger Woods. I would do it 100 times over.

The second season of your show, Coming Home, which features servicemen and women seeing their families for the first time since returning home from combat, recently began. How did you get involved with the show?

I basically begged to do the show. I’m not above begging. I said, “Please, please let me do this show.” There was a lot of begging involved and a lot of hard work. I wanted it more than anyone else out there. I promise you there is not someone out there who wants to do it more than I do. There might be people who could do it better than me, but no one wants it more than me.

How did Sesame Street end up being a part of Coming Home? Was it fun having Elmo and Rosita on the show?

Farrin Jay (a member of Sesame Workshop’s communications team) really worked hard to put Sesame Street on Coming Home. Total congrats to Farrin for making this thing happen. It was a huge hit. We have 13 amazing episodes. For Sesame Street to be the opener – all of our episodes are good and to me Sesame Street is the best out of all of them.

Carmen and Kevin (Rosita and Elmo, respectively) are really good people and they have huge hearts. That’s why they’ve been doing what they’ve been doing for so long. The kids were head over heels in love with both Muppets. Kids love them. Obviously Kevin and Carmen are professionals. What impresses me is the way they are off camera. The truth is, we film for ten hours and we only show ten minutes. Off camera, they [Carmen and Kevin] are exactly the same. They take time for the kids. The truth is, these kids are broken. Sometimes they haven’t seen their parents for years. I could never imagine what it’s like to live that way. To watch Kevin and Carmen take time for each individual kid even though they are hot, tired, and hungry themselves is amazing. They stick around when they don’t get anything out of it. They stayed and stayed in character. Their hearts were huge.

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