List of human Sesame Street characters

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Long-running cast member Bob McGrath (in 2007), who played Bob on Sesame Street from its premiere in 1969.

Since the premiere of the children's television program Sesame Street on July 21, 1969, it has included what writer Malcolm Gladwell has called "the essence of Sesame Street—the artful blend of fluffy monsters and earnest adults".[1] The original cast, chosen by original producer Jon Stone, consisted of four human actors—Matt Robinson, who played Gordon; Loretta Long, who played Gordon's wife, Susan; Will Lee, who played Mr. Hooper; and Bob McGrath, who played Bob. Unlike most children's television programs at the time, the producers of Sesame Street decided against using a single host and cast a group of ethnically diverse, primarily African American actors/presenters,[2] with, as Sesame Street researcher Gerald S. Lesser put it, "a variety of distinctive and reliable personalities".[3]

Stone did not audition actors until spring 1969, a few weeks before five shows, designed to test the show's appeal to children and to examine their comprehension of the material, were due to be filmed. Stone videotaped the auditions, and researcher Ed Palmer took them out into the field to test children's reactions. The actors who received the "most enthusiastic thumbs up" were cast.[4] For example, when the children saw Long's audition, they stood up and sang along with her rendition of "I'm a Little Teapot".[4][5] As Stone said, casting was the only aspect of the show that was "just completely haphazard".[6] Most of the cast and crew found jobs on Sesame Street through personal relationships with Stone and the other producers.[6]

The results of the test shows, which were never intended for broadcast and shown to preschoolers in 60 homes throughout Philadelphia and in day care centers in New York City in July 1969,[6] were "generally very positive".[7] The researchers found that children learned from the shows, that the show's appeal was high, and that children's attention was sustained over the full hour.[6] However, they found that, although children's attention was high during the Muppet segments, their interest wavered when there were only humans on screen. The producers had followed the advice of child psychologists who were concerned that children would be confused, and had recommended that human actors and Muppets not be shown together. As a result of this decision, the appeal of the test episodes was lower than they would have liked,[7][8] so the show's producers knew they needed to make significant changes, including defying the recommendations of their advisers and show the human and Muppet characters together. Lesser called this decision "a turning point in the history of Sesame Street".[1] Muppet creator Jim Henson and his coworkers created Muppets for Sesame Street that could interact with the human actors, and many segments were re-shot.[1]

In 2016, after Sesame Street moved from PBS to HBO, three of its longtime cast members, Bob McGrath (Bob), Emilio Delgado (Luis), and Roscoe Orman (Gordon), were removed from contract status. After fan outcry was reported, the Sesame Workshop apologized, stating that although the actors were not featured in the 2016 season, they would appear in future episodes.[9][10]


Buffy Sainte-Marie, shown here in 1975, who appeared on Sesame Street in the late 1970s
Lily Tomlin (2008), one of the many celebrities who have appeared on the show and portrayer of Edith Ann and Ernestine the Telephone Operator
Roscoe Orman, who played Gordon (shown here in 2007)
Matt Robinson, who played Gordon on Sesame Street from 1969 to 1972.
Luis, played by Emilio Delgado
Maria, played by Sonia Manzano
Charlotte Rae (at the 1988 Emmy Awards), who played Molly in the early 1970s
Bill Irwin the original Mr. Noodle
Michael Jeter (shown here in 1992), who played Mr. Noodle's brother Mr. Noodle
Tina Fey played a pirate captain in episode 4135 in 2008
Raúl Juliá (shown here in 1984), who played Rafael in 1971
Ruth Buzzi (shown here in 2008), who played Ruthie in the 1990s
Character Actor Description
Alan Muraoka[11] A "warm and welcoming character," and the proprietor of Hooper's Store after its more contemporary redesign in 1998.[12]
Angela Angel Jemmott Part of the "Around-the-Corner" expansion of the 1990s, Angela was a day care worker. She was the wife of Jamal and mother of baby Kayla.[13]
Armando "Mando"
Ismael Cruz Córdova An energetic Latino writer and "techie [who] loves his gadgets".[14]
Billy Tuesday (2004) Taylor Matalon Jane Tuesday's "wily and mischievous brother", who seems to always be at the scene of the crime.[15]
Bob Johnson
Bob McGrath A regular on the show since its premiere, Bob is Sesame Street's resident music teacher.[16][9]
Buddy and Jim Brandon Maggart and Jim Catusi[17] "Two bumblers" who appeared in the first episode of Sesame Street.[17][18]
Buffy Sainte-Marie Indigenous Canadian folk singer who appeared in an "understated" scene about breastfeeding with Big Bird and her infant son Cody.[19][20] Buffy helped introduce Native American culture to Sesame Street's audience.[21]
Carlo Alban A teenager who was a regular on the show for five years. He worked part-time at Hooper's Store and was a student of Gordon in his science class. [22]
Annette Calud A regular for four years who was part of the "Around the Corner" expansion. She was a dance teacher. [23]
Chris Robinson (2006–present) Chris Knowings Chris is a student who works part-time at Hooper's Store. He is the nephew of Gordon and Susan.[24][9]
Dakota Starblanket Wolfchild Infant son of Buffy Saint-Marie and Sheldon Wolfchild; was breast-fed by his mother on-air, and helped demonstrate sibling rivalry with Big Bird.[21]
Northern Calloway[25] Worked for Mr. Hooper at Hooper's Store; he later became proprietor of Hooper's Store following Mr. Hooper's death. According to Sesame Street Unpaved, "He was that funny, upbeat, cool-looking guy" who dated Maria.[26]
Edith Ann Lily Tomlin Tomlin's comic, childlike character who appeared in five segments on Sesame Street.[27]
Lily Tomlin Tomlin's famous nasal-voice telephone operator.[28]
Gabriela "Gabi" Rodriguez Gabriela Rose Reagan (1989–91)
Desiree Casado(1992-2013)[29]
Daughter of Luis and Maria Rodriguez (born 1989), her character was created as part of the show's curriculum about love, marriage, and childbirth.[30][29]
Dr. Gina Jefferson
Alison Bartlett-O'Reilly (1987-2017)[31] Started on the show as a teenager who worked in Hooper's Store. She ran a day-care center, later became a veterinarian, and adopted a baby named Marco from Guatemala.[32]
Gordon Robinson
Garrett Saunders (1969)[33]
Matt Robinson (1969–1972)
Hal Miller (1972–1974)
Roscoe Orman (1974-2017)[34]
Named for photographer-filmmaker Gordon Parks.[35] Gordon is a science teacher who owns the brownstone "123 Sesame Street" building with his wife Susan. He is the first character introduced in the show's premiere. Davis described him as "a dutiful husband and steady provider, a well-liked and respected figure in the neighborhood".[36]
Gedde Watanabe A Japanese artist[13]
Mr. Harold Hooper
Will Lee The original proprietor of Hooper's Store. Lee described Mr. Hooper as "the gruff grocer with the warm heart".[37] Sesame Street dealt with Lee's 1982 death in what author Michael Davis called "a landmark broadcast"[38] that aired on Thanksgiving Day, 1983.[39]
Jou Jou Papailler Introduced when Sesame Street expanded "Around-the-Corner". Jamal was a park ranger who was married to Angela and had a baby named Kayla.[13]
Jane Tuesday (2004) Kyla Taub Developed to be a strong female role model, Jane is a seven-year-old private investigator in a series of short films.[15]
Jason Kingsley Child with Down syndrome who made 55 appearances on the show between the early-to-mid 1970s. Jason was the son of writer Emily Kingsley, who pushed for more inclusion of people with disabilities on the show.[40][41]
Eugene Byrd Byrd was hired by producer Dulcy Singer as a part of a curriculum push about race relations..[42][43]
Jada Rowland Appeared in first episode of Sesame Street.[18]
Joey Joey Calvan[44] A child who appeared on Sesame Street until she was ten years old because she looked younger than she actually was.[45]
John-John John Williams III Best known for his count-to-20 segment with Herry Monster, he had what Gikow called an "effortless connection to the Muppets and the bold confidence of his delivery".[44]
Kayla Rachael McDaniel and Syvae McDaniel Baby daughter of Angela and Jamal.[13]
Larry and Phyllis Alan Arkin and Barbara Dana Played by real-life husband-and-wife, they taught cooperation during season two.[46][47]
Leela (2008 - 2015) Nitya Vidyasagar Indian American character who runs Sesame Street's laundromat.[48]
The Letter A Nicole Sullivan Appeared on the show's direct-to-video project called All Star Alphabet.[27]
The Letter Z Stephen Colbert Appeared on the show's direct-to-video project called All Star Alphabet.[27]
Lillian Lillias White White, a Broadway star of many productions, won an Emmy for her portrayal of Lillian.[49]
Linda Bove The neighborhood librarian and Bob's girlfriend. Bove said that writer Emily Kingsley "wrote Linda as a person first, then worried about the other stuff", meaning Linda's deafness and use of American Sign Language.[51]
Luis Rodriguez
Emilio Delgado Davis calls Luis "a tenderhearted Hispanic man";[52] Luis married Maria in 1988, and his daughter Gabi was born in 1989.[53][29]
Marco Jefferson Gina's adopted son from Guatemala.[54]
Maria Rodriguez
Sonia Manzano Starting as a teenager and one of the first Latinas on television, Maria was loosely based upon her portrayer Manzano's life. Maria was married to Luis, co-owned the fix-it shop with him, and had a daughter named Gabi.[56]
Jaime Sánchez First Latino cast member[13]
Ward Saxton A teenage Fix-It Shop worker.[13]
Miles Robinson Miles Orman (1985–1995)
Kevin Clash (episode 2312)
Imani Patterson (1995–2002)
Olamide Faison (2003–2009)[57]
The adopted son of Gordon and Susan Robinson. According to Gikow, Miles and Gabi have grown up together on Sesame Street, and are "now old enough for their characters to go off to college".[57]
Charlotte Rae A female mail carrier who debuted in season 3. After appearing on Sesame Street, Rae became famous as Edna Garrett on Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life.[13]
Mr. Handford Leonard Jackson (1989–1990)
David Smyrl (1990–1998)[13]
The owner of Hooper's Store. Jackson played "the grumpier version" of the character, while Smyrl played the "smiling, singing" Mr. Handford.[58]
Mr. MacIntosh
Chester O'Brien A fruit vendor played by Sesame Street's floor manager.[13]
Mr. Noodle Bill Irwin (1998-2009, 2017-present) A mime featured in Elmo's World, whose mistakes empower viewers to, as writer Louise Gikow puts it, "call out instructions that allow them to feel smarter than the adult".[59]
Mr. Noodle's Brother, Mr. Noodle (2000–2003)[60] Michael Jeter Mr. Noodle's brother who appeared in the Elmo's World segments, often with his brother.[59]
Mr. Noodle's Sister, Ms. Noodle Kristin Chenoweth Mr. Noodle's sister who appeared in Elmo's World.[59]
Mr. Noodle's Other Sister, Miss Noodle Sarah Jones Mr. Noodle's other sister; like Irwin, Jeter, and Chenoweth, Jones is a Tony award winner.[61]
Mr. Noodle's Brothers
Daveed Diggs; Daniel Koren Appeared in the retooled "Elmo's World," with Irwin's Noodle and their three pet dogs, Schmoodle, Floodle, and Frank.[62]
Nina (2016–) Suki Lopez Young bilingual Hispanic woman who works at the Bicycle Shop and the Sesame Street laundromat.[63]
The Number Painter
Paul Benedict A bowler-capped fellow in several short films, he would randomly pop up in places and paint his surroundings with big red numbers.[64]
Olivia Robinson
Alaina Reed Gordon's sister and a professional photographer.[65]
Pirate Captain (2007) Tina Fey A "Swashbuckling captain" of the Bookaneers, a group of pirates who love to read.[66]
Raul Julia A Puerto Rican man who was partnered with Luis in the L & R Fix-It Shop.[13]
Ruth Buzzi Proprietor of Sesame Street's thrift shop Finders Keepers; part of the "Around the Corner" expansion in the early 1990s.[13][67]
Herself A young girl who appeared in the first episode of Sesame Street[68]
Savion Glover Brought on Sesame Street to provide viewers with a positive teen role model, Savion was a dancer whose character was based upon his portrayer. He and Gina, when they were teenagers, battled prejudice against interracial couples.[69]
Sheldon Sheldon Wolfchild Buffy's husband and Cody's father; the family's appearance on the show was called "the first time Sesame Street has had a nuclear family".[21]
Susan Robinson
Loretta Long Sesame Street Unpaved calls Susan a "maternal figure".[70] Gordon's wife, one of three regular characters that appeared on the show's premiere.[68]
Tarah Schaeffer The first regularly appearing character on Sesame Street who used a wheelchair; served as a positive role model for children with disabilities.[71][72]
Larry Block Worked at Hooper's Store.[13]
Trash Gordon
Roscoe Orman Spoof of the 1930s superhero Flash Gordon. He is the alter-ego of Gordon.[73]
Mrs. Mae Trump Loretta Tupper Played by the radio performer of the 1930s and 1940s, she played the piano on Sesame Street.[74]
Uncle Wally
Bill McCutcheon "A fun-loving, down-to-earth, endearing older gentleman".[13][75]
Wanda Falbo (Word Fairy)
Andrea Martin Played by SCTV alum who won an Emmy for her work on Sesame Street. She introduced words to the viewers and explained what they meant. [76][77]
Wally and Ralph
Paul Price and Joe Ponazecki A comedy team in the tradition of Laurel and Hardy who appeared during season 3.[78]
Kermit Love Hot dog vendor. He was played by the Muppet designer who co-created Big Bird and Mr. Snuffleupagus.[79][13]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Gladwell, p. 106
  2. ^ Lesser, p. 99
  3. ^ Lesser, p. 125
  4. ^ a b Borgenicht, p. 15
  5. ^ Davis, p. 172
  6. ^ a b c d Davis, p. 167
  7. ^ a b Fisch, Shalom M.; Bernstein, Lewis (2001). "Formative Research Revealed: Methodological and Process Issues in Formative Research". In Fisch, Shalom M.; Truglio, Rosemarie T. "G" is for Growing: Thirty Years of Research on Children and Sesame Street. Mahweh, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers. p. 39. ISBN 0-8058-3395-1.
  8. ^ Gladwell, p. 105
  9. ^ a b c Chow, Andrew R. (28 July 2016). "Three Longtime 'Sesame Street' Cast Members Are Let Go". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  10. ^ Hines, Ree. "'Sesame' CEO apologizes, says Bob, Luis and Gordon may return to 'Sesame Street'". NBC News. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  11. ^ Gikow, p. 81
  12. ^ Wang, Frances Kai-Hwa (15 July 2015). "From Broadway to Big Bird: Behind the Scenes With Sesame Street's Alan Muraoka". NBC News. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Gikow, p. 83
  14. ^ Grode, Eric (30 August 2013). "A Chameleon Onstage and on TV". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  15. ^ a b "Jane Tuesday World Broadcast Premiere" (Press release). PR 29 April 2004. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  16. ^ Borgenicht, p. 120
  17. ^ a b "A Toddle Down 'Sesame Street'". Ebony. 25 (3): 39. January 1970. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  18. ^ a b Episode 0001 (November 10, 1969), in Old School, Volume 1 (Disc 1) [DVD] (2006), Children's Television Workshop
  19. ^ Davis, p. 236
  20. ^ Ditchburn, Jennifer (29 April 2010). "Buffy Sainte-Marie to get Governor General's Award". Toronto Star. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  21. ^ a b c "Sesame Street Gets Family". The Times-News. Henderson, North Carolina. 9 April 1977. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  22. ^ Dailey, Kate (24 November 2011). "I is for Illegal: Acting on Sesame Street without a visa". BBC News Magazine. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  23. ^ Borgenicht, p. 127
  24. ^ Gikow, pp. 62–63
  25. ^ "Northern Calloway, Actor, 41, on Stage And 'Sesame Street'". The New York Times. 13 January 1990. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  26. ^ Borgenicht, p. 121
  27. ^ a b c Gikow, p. 125
  28. ^ Clarke, Carolyn V. (February 1995). "Kevin Clash, Principle Muppeteer, Jim Henson Productions". Black Enterprise: 95. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  29. ^ a b c Gikow, p. 122
  30. ^ Truglio, Rosemarie T.; Lovelace, Valeria O.; Seqhi, Ivelisse; Scheiner, Scheiner (2001). "The Varied Role of Formative Research: Case Studies From 30 years". In Fisch, Shalom M.; Truglio, Rosemarie T. "G" is for Growing: Thirty Years of Research on Children and Sesame Street. Mahweh, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers. p. 74. ISBN 0-8058-3395-1.
  31. ^ Davis, p. 291
  32. ^ Gikow, p. 80
  33. ^ Pesce, Nicole Lyn (28 July 2016). "'Sesame Street' axes one, two, three favorite human characters". New York Daily News. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  34. ^ Gikow, p. 72
  35. ^ Davis, p. 168
  36. ^ Davis, p. 182
  37. ^ Davis, p. 178
  38. ^ Davis, p. 284
  39. ^ "Additional Cast". Sesame Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  40. ^ Gikow, p. 181
  41. ^ Davis, p. 232
  42. ^ Lipton, Laura (11 November 1990). "Dulcy Singer: 22 Years on a Changing 'Street'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  43. ^ Fearn-Banks, Kathleen (2006). Historical Dictionary of African-American Television. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 62. ISBN 0-8108-5335-3.
  44. ^ a b Gikow, p. 123
  45. ^ Borgenicht, p. 83
  46. ^ Lague, Louise (26 March 1979). "Stardom Was a Catch-22 for Alan Arkin, but His Wife and a Guru Helped Beat the System". People Magazine. 11 (12). Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  47. ^ Episode 0131 (1970-11-1090), in Old School, Volume 1 (Disc 2) [DVD] (2006), Children's Television Workshop
  48. ^ Gikow, p. 63
  49. ^ Rothstein, Mervyn (4 January 2010). "A Life in the Theatre: Lillias White". Playbill. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  50. ^ Schuchmann, John S. (1979). "Filmography". Hollywood Speaks: Deafness and the Film Entertainment Industry. Chicago: Illini Books. p. 138. ISBN 0-252-01526-6.
  51. ^ Davis, pp. 234—235
  52. ^ Davis, p. 293
  53. ^ Gikow, p. 207
  54. ^ Gikow, p. 80, 217
  55. ^ "44 years after joining the show, Sesame Street's Maria is retiring". A.V. Club. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  56. ^ Bever, Lindsey (2 July 2015). "'Maria,' surely the most-loved person on TV, is leaving 'Sesame Street'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  57. ^ a b >Gikow, pp. 122—123
  58. ^ "David Smyrl Dies at 80; Played Mr. Handford on 'Sesame Street'". The New York Times. Associated Press. 26 March 2016. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  59. ^ a b c Gikow, p. 169
  60. ^ "Michael Jeter, 50, Dies; Won Acting Prizes". The New York Times. 2 April 2003. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  61. ^ Heldenfels, Rich (19 July 2012). "TV Q&A: 'Sesame Street's' Mr. Noodle explained". Akron Beacon Journal. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  62. ^ Steinberg, Brian (17 October 2017). "'Sesame Street' Will Revive 'Elmo's World'". Variety. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  63. ^ Reyes, Raul A. (15 January 2016). "Sesame Street Welcomes 'Nina,' a Young Latina, to 46th Season". NBC Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  64. ^ Finn, Natalie (4 December 2008). "Paul Benedict, Jeffersons Neighbor & Sesame Street Painter, Found Dead". Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  65. ^ McLellan, Dennis (22 December 2008). "Alaina Reed Hall dies at 63; actress was Olivia Robinson on 'Sesame Street'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  66. ^ Walsh-Boyle, Megan (13 August 2007). "Tina Fey Rocks Sesame Street's World (and Vice Versa)". TV Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  67. ^ Davis, p. 320
  68. ^ a b Davis, p. 193
  69. ^ Schemo, Diane Jean (2 January 1994). "TELEVISION; 'Sesame Street,' Just a Few Steps From Broadway". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  70. ^ Borgenicht, p. 123
  71. ^ Tofig, Diana (31 October 1993). "Plainville Girl Takes Her Own Magic To `Sesame Street'". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  72. ^ Cook, Sally Williams (17 January 1994). "Girl in Wheelchair Joins 'Sesame Street' Cast". The Free Lance-Star. Fredricksburg, Virginia. Associated Press. p. B6. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  73. ^ Gikow, p. 73
  74. ^ "Loretta Tupper, 84, A Radio Entertainer". The New York Times. 22 September 1990. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  75. ^ a b McLellan, Dennis (12 January 2012). "Bill McCutcheon, 77; Comedic Actor". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  76. ^ "Andrea in Film and Television". I am Andrea Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  77. ^ Anstead, Alicia (March 3, 2005). "Funny Woman; 'Fiddler on the Roof' latest role for Maine native Andrea Martin". Bangor Daily News. p. C1. Archived from the original on November 3, 2014. Retrieved January 1, 2018.
  78. ^ Gikow, p. 85
  79. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (24 June 2008). "Kermit Love, Costume Creator, Dies at 91". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 January 2018.


  • Borgenicht, David (1998). Sesame Street Unpaved. New York: Hyperion Publishing. ISBN 0-7868-6460-5
  • Davis, Michael (2008). Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street. New York: Viking Penguin. ISBN 978-0-670-01996-0
  • Gikow, Louise A. (2009). Sesame Street: A Celebration—Forty Years of Life on the Street. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers. ISBN 978-1-57912-638-4.
  • Gladwell, Malcolm (2000). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. New York: Little, Brown, and Company. ISBN 0-316-31696-2
  • Lesser, Gerald S. (1974). Children and Television: Lessons From Sesame Street. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 0-394-71448-2

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