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, 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 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.
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, were "generally very positive". 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. 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, 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". 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.
|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||Cruz was hired by producer Dulcy Singer as a part of a curriculum push about race relations.|
|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) An energetic Latino writer and "techie [who] loves his gadgets".|
|Robert "Bob" Johnson||Bob McGrath||(1969–present) A regular on the show since its premiere, Bob is Sesame Street's resident music teacher who lives in an apartment above Hooper's Store.|
|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 was a regular on the show for five years.|
|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||(2006–present) Chris is a student who works part-time at Hooper's Store. He is the nephew of Gordon and Susan.|
|Cody||Dakota Starblanket Wolfchild||(1977) 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.|
|David||Northern Calloway||(1971–1989) Worked for Mr. Hooper at Hooper's Store and lived in an apartment above the 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.|
|Edith Ann||Lily Tomlin||Tomlin's comic, childlike character who appeared in five segments on Sesame Street.|
|Ernestine||Lily Tomlin||Tomlin's famous nasal-voice telephone operator. She appeared in the special Sesame Street Stays Up Late! A Monster New Year's Eve Party in 1993.|
|Gabriela "Gabi" Rodriguez (born 1989)||Gabriela Rose Reagan (1989–1991)
Desiree Casado (1993–present)
|Daughter of Luis and Maria Rodriguez. She is good friends with Miles and graduated from high school with him.|
|Dr. Gina Jefferson||Alison Bartlett-O'Reilly (1987–present)||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.|
|Gordon Robinson||Garrett Saunders (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 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".|
|Hiroshi||Gedde Watanabe||(1988–1991) Hiroshi was an artist.|
|Mr. Harold Hooper||Will Lee||(1969–1983) The original proprietor of Hooper's Store. Lee described Mr. Hooper as "the gruff grocer with the warm heart". Sesame Street dealt with Lee's 1982 death in 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 on the show.|
|Jelani||Eugene Byrd||(1987–1991) Byrd was hired by producer Dulcy Singer as a part of a curriculum push about race relations.|
|Jennie||Jada Rowland||(1969–1973) Appeared in first episode of Sesame Street. She taught Sally how to knit.|
|Joey||Joey Calvan||A 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".|
|Kayla||Rachael McDaniel and Syvae McDaniel||Baby daughter of Angela and Jamal.|
|Larry and Phyllis||Alan Arkin and Barbara Dana||Played by real-life husband-and-wife, they taught cooperation during 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.|
|Leela||Nitya Vidyasagar||The show's first Indian American character, Leela runs the laundromat next to Hooper's Store.|
|Lillian||Lillias White||Fun-loving and affectionate, Lillian ran the family daycare center. 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) A Mexican-American repairman who is Maria's husband and Gabi's father. Luis is "the Mr. Fix-It" of Sesame Street and was the first human addition to the original cast.|
|Marco Jefferson||Gina's adopted son from Guatemala.|
|Maria Figueroa-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. After she and Luis married, they moved into a second-floor apartment at 123 Sesame Street.|
|Miguel||Jaime Sánchez||(1970–1974) First Latino cast member of Sesame Street.|
|Mike||Ward Saxton||(1989–1991) A teenage Fix-It Shop worker.|
|Miles Robinson||Miles Orman (1985–1995)
Kevin Clash (episode 2312)
Imani Patterson (1995–2002)
Olamide Faison (2003–present)
|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||(1971–1975) A female mail carrier who debuted in season 3. After appearing on Sesame Street, Rae 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 and soft-shoe dancer played by Sesame Street's floor manager.|
|Mr. Noodle||Bill Irwin||(1998–2002) 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||(2000–2004) 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 Elmo's World.|
|Mrs. Trump||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.|
|Pirate Captain||Tina Fey||(2007) A "Swashbuckling captain" of the Bookaneers, a group of pirates who love to read.|
|Rafael||Raul Julia||(1971–1975) A Puerto Rican man who was partnered with Luis in the L & R Fix-It Shop.|
|Ruthie||Ruth Buzzi||(1993–1998) 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||Holly Robinson Peete||(1969) A young girl who appeared in the first episode of Sesame Street.|
|Savion||Savion Glover||(1990–1995) Sesame Street.org calls Savion "a street-savvy teenager who was an extraordinary dancer".|
|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".|
|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 the wife of Gordon, adoptive mother of Miles, and surrogate mother to Big Bird and the neighborhood kids.|
|Tarah||Tarah Lynne Schaeffer||(1993) The first regularly appearing character on Sesame Street who used a wheelchair; served as a positive role model for children with disabilities.|
|Tom||Larry Block||(1970–1974) Worked at Hooper's Store.|
|Trash Gordon||Roscoe Orman||Spoof of the 1930s superhero Flash Gordon. He is the alter-ego of Gordon.|
|Uncle Wally||Bill McCutcheon||(1984–1992) A "colorful, bow-tie wearing character" who was also Bob's uncle.|
|Wanda Falbo (Word Fairy)||Andrea Martin||(1989-2000) Played by SCTV alum who won an Emmy for her work on Sesame Street.|
|Wally and Ralph||Paul Price and Joe Ponazecki||(1971–1975) A comedy team in the tradition of Laurel and Hardy who appeared during season 3.|
|Willy||Kermit Love||(1970s–early 1990s) Hot dog vendor. He was played by the Muppet designer who created Big Bird and Mr. Snuffleupagus.|
- Gladwell, p. 106
- Lesser, p. 99
- Lesser, p. 125
- Borgenicht, p. 15
- Davis, p. 172
- Davis, p. 167
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- Gladwell, p. 105
- Gladwell, p. 106
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- Episode 0001 (November 10, 1969), in Old School, Volume 1 (Disc 1) [DVD] (2006), Children's Television Workshop
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- Davis, p. 284
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