List of human Sesame Street characters
Since the premiere of the children's television program Sesame Street on November 10, 1969, it has included what writer Malcolm Gladwell has called "the essence of Sesame Street—the artful blend of fluffy monsters and earnest adults". The original cast, chosen by producer Jon Stone, consisted of four human actors—Matt Robinson, who played Gordon, Loretta Long, who played Gordon's wife Susan, Will Lee (Mr. Hooper), and Bob McGrath (Bob). Unlike most children television programs at the time, the producers of Sesame Street decided against using a single host and cast a group of ethnically diverse actors, with, as Sesame Street researcher Gerald S. Lesser put it, "a variety of distinctive and reliable personalities".
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. For example, when the children saw Long's audition, they stood up and sang along with her rendition of "I'm a Little Teapot". As Stone said, casting was the only aspect of the show that was "just completely haphazard". Most of the cast and crew found jobs on Sesame Street through personal relationships with Stone and the other producers.
According to CTW researchers Shalom M. Fisch and Lewis Bernstein, the results of the test shows, which were never intended for broadcast and presented to preschoolers in 60 homes throughout Philadelphia and in day care centers in New York City in July 1969, were "generally very positive". They 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. However, the researchers found that although children's attention was high during the Muppet segments, their interest wavered during the "Street" segments, when no Muppets were 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.
Palmer referred to the Street scenes as "the glue" that "pulled the show together", so producers knew they needed to make significant changes, including defying the recommendations of their advisers. Lesser called this decision "a turning point in the history of Sesame Street". The producers went back and reshot the Street segments; Muppet creator Jim Henson and his coworkers created Muppets that could interact with the human actors.
|Alan||Alan Muraoka||(1998–present) The proprietor of Hooper's Store following Mr. Handford's departure. According to Sesame Street.org, his "warmth and open character has made Hooper's Store the heart of the Sesame Street community".|
|Alexander "Alex"||Alexis Cruz||A teenager who lived on Sesame Street (1990–91). Alex is part of a teenage cohort that also included Gina, Mike and Jelani.|
|Angela||Angel Jemmoth||Part of the "Around-the-Corner" expansion of the 1990s, Angela was a day-care worker. She is the wife to Jamal and mother to baby Kayla.|
|Armando||Ismael Crúz Cordova||(2013–present) A Puerto-Rican resident, Latino neighbor, and writer who debuted in season 44.|
|Robert "Bob" Johnson||Bob McGrath||(1969–present) A regular on the show since its premiere, Bob is Sesame Street's resident music teacher.|
|Buddy and Jim||Brandon Maggart and Jim Catusi||A comic duo who failed at many tasks like hanging a picture on the wall. Appeared in first episode of Sesame Street.|
|Buffy||Buffy Sainte-Marie||(1975–81) Canadian First Nations folk singer. Buffy appeared in an "understated" scene about breastfeeding with Big Bird and her infant son Cody.|
|Carlo||Carlo Alban||(1993–1998) A teenager who worked at Hooper's Store. He is in Gordon's science class.|
|Celina||Annette Calud||A regular for four years who was part of the "Around the Corner" expansion. Celina owned and ran a dance studio above the "Finders Keepers" thrift shop.|
|Chris Robinson||Chris Knowings||(2007–present) Chris is a student who works part-time at Hooper's Store. He is the nephew of Gordon and Susan.|
|David||Northern Calloway||(1971–1989) A man who 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.|
|Detective Betts||Adam Rodríguez||(2011–present)|
|Edith Ann||Lily Tomlin||Tomlin's comic, childlike character who appeared in five segments on Sesame Street.|
|Ernestine||Lily Tomlin||A telephone operator who works at the Furry Arms Hotel.|
|Gabriela "Gabi" Rodriguez (born 1989)||Dick Maitland's Son (episode 2615)
Gabriela Manzano (baby, 1989–1990)
Desiree Casado (teenage, 1993–present)
|Daughter of Luis and Maria Rodriguez. She first appeared as a baby and appears in later episodes as a teenager.|
|Dr. Gina Jefferson||Alison Bartlett-O'Reilly (1987–present)||Started on the show as a teenager who worked in Hooper's Store and was part of a teenage consort with Alex, Jelani, and Mike. She later became a veterinarian and adopted a baby named Marco from Guatemala.|
|Gordon Robinson||Garrett Saunders (pilot, 1969)
Matt Robinson (1969–1972)
Hal Miller (1972–1974)
Roscoe Orman (1974–present)
|Named for photographer-filmmaker Gordon Parks. Gordon is a science teacher who owned a brownstone 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".|
|Hiroshi||Gedde Watanabe||(1988–1991) Played by the actor from Sixteen Candles, Hiroshi was an artist.|
|Mr. Harold Hooper||Will Lee||(1969–1982) Original proprietor of Hooper's Store. Lee described Mr. Hooper as "the gruff grocer with the warm heart". After Lee's death, Sesame Street dealt with it in what author Michael Davis called "a landmark broadcast" that aired on Thanksgiving Day, 1983.|
|Jamal||Jou Jou Papailler||(1993–1995) Introduced when Sesame Street expanded "Around-the-Corner". Jamal was a park ranger who was married to Angela and had a baby named Kayla.|
|Jane Tuesday||Kyla Taub||(2004) Developed to be a strong female role model, Jane is a seven-year old private investigator in a series of short films.|
|Jason||Jason Kingsley||(1975) Child with Down syndrome who made a few appearances on the show. Jason was the son of writer Emily Kingsley, who pushed for more inclusion of people with disabilities.|
|Jelani||Eugene Byrd||(1987–1991) A young boy who worked at the music club Birdland as part of the "Around the Corner" expansion. He was part of a teenage consort that also includes Alex, Gina, and Mike.|
|Jennie||Jada Rowland||(1969-1970) Appeared in first episode of Sesame Street. She taught Sally how to knit.|
|Joey||Joey Calvan||Child who appeared on Sesame Street until she was ten years old because she looked younger than she actually was.|
|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".|
|Larry and Phyllis||Alan Arkin and Barbara Dana||A comedy duo who appeared in sketches during Sesame Street's season two|
|The Letter A||Nicole Sullivan||Appeared on the show's direct-to-video project called All Star Alphabet.|
|The Letter Z||Stephen Colbert||Appeared on the show's direct-to-video project called All Star Alphabet.|
|Kayla||Rachael McDaniel and Syvae McDaniel||Baby daughter of Angela and Jamal.|
|Leela||Nitya Vidyasagar||(2008–present) A woman who runs the laundromat next to Hooper's Store. Leela's race of Indian-American was not an issue when the part was being cast.|
|Lillian||Lillias White||Fun-loving and affectionate, Lillian ran the family daycare center. Lillias White won an Emmy for the role in 1992.|
|Linda ||Linda Bove||The neighborhood librarian and Bob's girlfriend. She was also the original owner of Barkley and communicates with him and others through American Sign Language. Linda is the longest-running deaf character on television.|
|Luis Rodriguez||Emilio Delgado||(1971–present) Mexican-American married to Maria and father of Gabi. Luis is "the Mr. Fix-It" of Sesame Street and was the first human addition to the original cast.|
|Marco Jefferson||Unknown Performer||Gina's adopted son from Guatemala.|
|Maria Rodriguez||Sonia Manzano||(1971–present) Part of Sesame Street since she was a teenager, Maria co-owns the Fix-It Shop with her husband Luis (whom she married later on the show). She also dated David for a while and is Gabi's mother.|
|Miguel||Jaime Sánchez||(1970–1971) First Latino cast member of Sesame Street.|
|Mike||Ward Saxton||(1989–1991) A teenage Fix-It Shop worker. He is part of a teenage consort alongside Alex, Gina, and Jelani.|
|Miles Robinson||Miles Orman (1985–1992)
Kevin Clash (episode 2312)
Imani Patterson (1995–2002)
Olamide Faison (2003–2009)
|The adopted son of Gordon and Susan Robinson. Shy as a child, Miles grew into a fun-loving teenager and eventually formed his own band.|
|Molly||Charlotte Rae||(1971–1972) A female mail carrier who was in season 3. After appearing on Sesame Street, she became famous as Edna Garrett in Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life.|
|Mr. Handford||Leonard Jackson (1989-1990)
David Smyrl (1990–98)
|A retired firefighter who was the owner of Hooper's Store following David's departure.|
|Mr. MacIntosh||Chester O'Brien||(1971–1992) A Fruit Vendor played by Sesame Street's floor manager.|
|Mr. Noodle||Bill Irwin||(1998–2012) A Mime featured in the 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".|
|Mr. Noodle's Brother, Mr. Noodle||Michael Jeter||(2000–2003) Mr. Noodle's brother who appeared in the Elmo's World segments, often with his brother.|
|Mr. Noodle's Sister, Ms. Noodle||Kristin Chenoweth||(2004) Mr. Noodle's sister who appeared in the Elmo's World special "Wild, Wild, West" but recently appeared on a few regular segments.|
|Mr. Noodle's Other Sister, Miss Noodle||Sarah Jones||(2007) Mr. Noodle's second sister who appeared in the Elmo's World episode "Helping".|
|Mrs. Tupper||Loretta Tupper||Played by the radio performer of the 1930s and 1940s, she played the piano on Sesame Street.|
|The Number Painter||Paul Benedict||(1972) A bowler-capped fellow in several short films, he would randomly pop up in places and paint his surroundings with big white letters.|
|Olivia Robinson||Alaina Reed||(1976–1988) Gordon’s younger sister and a professional photographer.|
|Petey||Eddie Castrodad||(1984–1986) A teenager who worked at Hooper's Store. He is an expert breakdancer.|
|Pirate Captain||Tina Fey||(episode 4135) A "Swashbuckling captain" of the Bookaneers, a group of pirates who love to read.|
|Rafael||Raul Julia||(1971–1972) A Puerto Rican man who was partnered with Luis in the L & R Fix-It Shop. He enjoyed playing with the kids and teaching them Spanish words.|
|Ruthie||Ruth Buzzi||(1993–1999) Owner of Sesame Street's thrift shop Finders Keepers as part of the "Around the Corner" expansion. She used the objects in the store to tell "fascinating stories".|
|Sally||N/A||(1969) A young girl who appeared in the first episode of Sesame Street.|
|Savion||Savion Glover||(1990–1994) Sesame Street.org calls Savion "a street-savvy teenager who was an extraordinary dancer".|
|Sheldon||Sheldon Wolfchild||Buffy's husband.|
|Susan Robinson||Loretta Long||(1969–present) Sesame Street Unpaved calls Susan a "maternal figure". At first a homemaker, she evolved into a public health nurse. She is also the adoptive mother of Miles and wife of Gordon.|
|Tarah||Tarah Lynne Schaeffer||(1994–2000) The first regularly appearing character on Sesame Street who used a wheelchair and served as a positive role model for wheelchair-bound children. The actress who played Tarah has osteogenesis imperfecta.|
|Tom||Larry Block||(1970–1972) He worked at of Hooper's Store. He was friendly and enjoyed playing with the neighborhood kids.|
|Trash Gordon||Roscoe Orman||Spoof of the 1930s superhero Flash Gordon which is a superhero ego of Gordon Robinson.|
|Uncle Wally||Bill McCutcheon||(1984–1992) Bob's uncle.|
|Wanda Falbo (Word Fairy)||Andrea Martin||A character from SCTV who had her own series of segments.|
|Wally and Ralph||Paul Price and Joe Ponazecki||(1971–1974) A comedy team in the tradition of Laurel and Hardy who appeared during season 3.|
|Willy||Kermit Love||(1970–1990s) Sesame Street's Muppet designer who appeared on the show from time to time as a Hot Dog Vendor.|
- Gladwell, p. 106
- Lesser, p. 99
- Lesser, p. 125
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