Steven Lawrence Whitmire
September 24, 1959
Steven Lawrence Whitmire (born September 24, 1959) is an American puppeteer, known primarily for his work on The Muppets and Sesame Street. Beginning his involvement with the Muppets in 1978, Whitmire inherited the roles of Ernie and Kermit the Frog after Jim Henson's death in 1990; he performed the characters until 2014 and 2016, respectively. As part of the Muppet cast, he has appeared in multiple feature films and television series, performing a variety of characters on The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, and Fraggle Rock and during such occupations has been employed by The Jim Henson Company, Sesame Workshop, and The Muppets Studio.
Whitmire first appeared (unpaid) at a pre-show event at Six Flags Over Georgia. He performed with his then alter-ego puppet Otis for the children waiting to see a multimedia show.
Before graduating high school, Whitmire had his first "professional" puppeteering job using Otis at "The World of Sid & Marty Krofft" in Atlanta, the first indoor theme park. From there Whitmire appeared on local Atlanta TV live for 2 1/2 hours every day on "The Kids Show with Otis" taking telephone calls from children and adults. The show received more than 2000 calls per hour. WATL was owned at that time by former Atlanta children's television host "Officer Don" Kennedy. Otis made appearances on various WATL 36 shows with Atlanta's Ludlow Porch, performing with the Georgia Bulldogs' Larry Munson, Don Kennedy, and Entertainment Page host Artie Goodman. As Otis, Whitmire interviewed Olivia Newton-John during a tour promoting an album.
He worked with puppets after graduating high school, and eventually got a job working on The Muppet Show in 1978. Since then, Whitmire performed in almost every major Henson company project, including non-Muppet projects such as The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and Dinosaurs.
Whitmire was the second performer of two signature Muppets—Kermit the Frog and Ernie—after the death of their creator and original performer Jim Henson (with whom he shared a birthday) in 1990. Whitmire was personally asked by Brian Henson and Jane Henson to be Kermit's performer a few weeks after Jim Henson's death. Heather Henson arranged for a Kermit puppet to be sent to Whitmire's residence; however, Whitmire hid the puppet away for weeks before deciding on taking on the role. Following the death of Richard Hunt and the retirement of Jerry Nelson, Whitmire took over the roles of Beaker and Statler, respectively. In 2014, Billy Barkhurst took over the role of Ernie, with Peter Linz taking over that role in 2017.
Muppet characters original to Whitmire include Rizzo the Rat, Lips (the trumpet player from Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem), Foo-Foo (Miss Piggy's dog), Wembley Fraggle and Sprocket the Dog on Fraggle Rock, and Bean Bunny, a character that originated in The Tale of the Bunny Picnic (1986).
Whitmire voiced Link Hogthrob in the Muppet RaceMania and Muppets Party Cruise video games. He also performed Link for the 2011 film The Muppets. This was the first speaking appearance of the character since the death of Jim Henson, the original performer of Link. He also performed him in Muppets Most Wanted. In 2008, Whitmire took over another of Jim Henson's roles, The Muppet Newsman.
Dismissal from the Muppets
In July 2017, The Muppets Studio announced that Whitmire was no longer involved with the Muppets and that fellow Muppet performer Matt Vogel was cast as Kermit's new performer. Whitmire revealed that he was dismissed from his roles in October 2016 because of undisclosed issues that he said had not been discussed before his dismissal. In their decision-making, The Walt Disney Company (owner of The Muppets Studio) consulted the Henson family, who supported the recasting of Kermit and Whitmire's dismissal.
Brian Henson stated that issues with Whitmire began in the mid-1990s, and said that Whitmire would make "outrageous demands and often played brinkmanship", and additionally stated that Whitmire would "send emails and letters attacking everyone, attacking the writing and attacking the director". He also expressed guilt for not dismissing Whitmire and recasting Kermit before selling the Muppets to Disney in 2004, "because I knew that it was going to be a real problem". Lisa Henson stated that Whitmire was opposed to having an understudy for Kermit and refused to train one, which became problematic when it came to "B-level performances, such as a ribbon-cutting," at some of which she said he was unwilling to appear. She also stated that he "blackballed young performers" by refusing to appear in shows with them.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that same month, Whitmire stated he was dismissed for disagreements over Kermit's characterization and prolonged labor union negotiations that delayed his involvement in Muppet productions. Whitmire alleged that Disney offered him what he called "consolation prizes" if he voluntarily left, including honoring him as a Disney Legend, under the public pretense that he would be retiring from performing. In a statement released to The New York Times, Debbie McClellan, then-head of The Muppets Studio, said that they "raised concerns about Steve’s repeated unacceptable business conduct over a period of many years, and he consistently failed to address the feedback". Whitmire has expressed an interest in making amends and resuming his role with the Muppets in the future if possible.
|1979||The Muppet Movie||Additional Muppet performer||Puppeteer; Whitmire also makes an onscreen cameo as a man attending Bogen County Fair|
|1981||The Great Muppet Caper||Rizzo the Rat, Lips||Puppeteer/voice|
|1982||The Dark Crystal||skekTek the Scientist||Puppeteer|
|1984||The Muppets Take Manhattan||Rizzo the Rat, Gil the Frog, Dog, additional characters||Puppeteer/voice|
|1985||Dreamchild||The Caterpillar (puppetry only), Mock Turtle (puppetry only)||Puppeteer|
|1986||Labyrinth||The Four Guards (puppetry only), Firey 4 (puppetry only), Ambrosius (puppetry only)|
|1990||The Witches||Luke Mouse||Puppeteer Only|
|1992||The Muppet Christmas Carol||Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Bean Bunny, Lips, Sprocket, Beaker, Belinda Cratchit, Laundress, additional characters||Puppeteer/voice|
|1996||Muppet Treasure Island||Rizzo the Rat, Kermit the Frog, Beaker, The Dodo, Walleye Pike, Inkspots, Rats|
|1997||123 Count with Me||Ernie|
|1998||Elmopalooza||Ernie, Kermit the Frog|
|1999||Muppets from Space||Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Bean Bunny, Cosmic Fish #1, Beach Hippie (on-screen cameo), Alien Gonzo|
|1999||The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland||Ernie, Bad Humor Man, Football Stenchman, Sharon Groan, Stuckweed, Parrot|
|1999||CinderElmo||Ernie, Kermit the Frog, and Prince the Dog|
|2002||Kermit's Swamp Years||Kermit the Frog, Young Kermit, Chico, Jack Rabbit|
|2002||It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie||Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Bean Bunny, Mr. Poodlepants|
|2005||The Muppets' Wizard of Oz||Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Statler, Bean Bunny, Audience Member at Aunt Em's Diner (on-screen cameo)|
|2007||Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium||Kermit the Frog|
|2011||The Muppets||Kermit the Frog, Beaker, Rizzo the Rat, Statler, Link Hogthrob, The Muppet Newsman, Lips|
|2014||Muppets Most Wanted||Kermit the Frog, Foo-Foo, Statler, Beaker, Lips, Rizzo the Rat, Link Hogthrob, The Muppet Newsman, Andy Pig, gulag prisoner (on-screen cameo)||Puppeteer/voice|
|1978–1981||The Muppet Show||Rizzo the Rat, Lips, Foo-Foo, Fletcher Bird (voice), additional characters||Performer|
|1979||The Muppets Go Hollywood||Additional characters, extra||Performer/actor|
|1979||John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together||Additional characters||Performer|
|1982||The Fantastic Miss Piggy Show||Rizzo the Rat, back-up singer, additional characters||Performer/actor|
|1983–1987||Fraggle Rock||Wembley Fraggle, Sprocket, Marlon Fraggle, Flange Doozer, Murray the Minstrel, Papa Tree Creature, Phil Fraggle (puppetry only), Crusty Doozer||Performer|
|1983||Rocky Mountain Holiday||Rizzo the Rat, Giant Man Eating Chicken|
|1986||The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years||Rizzo the Rat, additional characters|
|1986||The Christmas Toy||Mew|
|1986||The Tale of the Bunny Picnic||Bean Bunny|
|1987||A Muppet Family Christmas||Rizzo the Rat, Lips, Sprocket, Christmas Turkey, Wembley Fraggle|
|1987||Inner Tube||Henry, Duke||Performer, unaired pilot|
|1989||The Jim Henson Hour||Bean Bunny, Flash, Jacques Roach, Waldo C. Graphic, Yellow Extreme, additional characters||Performer|
|1990||The Muppets at Walt Disney World||Rizzo the Rat, Bean Bunny, Lips, Foo Foo, Sprocket|
|1993–2014||Sesame Street||Ernie (1993–2014), Kermit the Frog (1996-2001; 2009), Dr. Feel and Additional characters||Performer/voice|
|1990||The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson||Rizzo the Rat, Bean Bunny, Kermit the Frog||Performer|
|1991–1994||Dinosaurs||B.P. Richfield (puppetry), Robbie Sinclair (face), Chief Elder (face), Mr. Mason Dixon, Sonny Woody, Blarney, Judge H.T. Stone (puppetry)||Performer/puppeteer|
|1992–1993||Muppet Meeting Films||Flunky, Mr. Briteweight, Kermit the Frog||Performer|
|1993||Sesame Street Stays Up Late!||Ernie|
|1994||Jim Henson's Animal Show||Jake the Polar Bear, Wingo the Shoebill, Lawrence the Orangutan|
|1994||Muppet Classic Theater||Rizzo the Rat, Kermit the Frog|
|1995||Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree||Bear, Kermit the Frog, Owl|
|1996–1998||Muppets Tonight||Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Bean Bunny, Captain Pighead, Andy Pig, Mr. Poodlepants, additional characters|
|1998-2009||Elmo's World||Ernie, Kermit the Frog|
|2001||Family Feud||Kermit||Performer/Guest Contestant|
|2002-2007||Play With Me Sesame||Ernie||Performer (Season 1 only and Season 3 for non-US markets)|
|2008||Studio DC: Almost Live||Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Statler, Bean Bunny, Foo-Foo||Performer|
|2008||A Muppet Christmas: Letters to Santa||Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Statler|
|2011||WWE Raw||Kermit the Frog, Beaker, Statler||Puppeteer|
|2012||WWE Tribute to the Troops||Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat||Puppeteer|
|2012||30 Rock||Kermit the Frog||Puppeteer, Episode: "My Whole Life Is Thunder"|
|2013||Good Luck Charlie||Kermit the Frog||Puppeteer/Guest Star, Episode: "Duncan Dream House"|
|2013||Lady Gaga and the Muppets Holiday Spectacular||Kermit the Frog, Beaker, Rizzo the Rat, Statler||Performer|
|2015||Muppet Moments||Kermit the Frog, Beaker, Rizzo the Rat, Statler, Sheep, Andy Pig, Foo-Foo, The Muppet Newsman|
|2015–2016||The Muppets||Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Statler, Lips, The Muppet Newsman, Andy Pig|
|2021||Lego Masters||Willy||Performer, (2 episodes)|
|2000||Muppet Race Mania||Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Bean Bunny, Gil, Link Hogthrob, Flange Doozer||Voice role|
|2000||Muppet Monster Adventure||Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker|
|2001||Sesame Street Sports||Ernie|
|2003||Muppets Party Cruise||Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Andy Pig, Bean Bunny, Link Hogthrob|
|1991||Muppet*Vision 3D||Waldo C. Graphic, Bean Bunny, Rizzo the Rat||Performer, theme park film|
|2005–2006||Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony||Statler (Ep. 1-8)||Performer|
|2008–2009||Muppet YouTube Shorts||Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Statler, Rabbits, Pumpkins, Penguins, Turkey|
|2010||Disney's Honorary VoluntEars Cavalcade||Kermit the Frog||Voice, theme park parade|
|2010||The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora||Kermit the Frog, Beaker, Andy Pig, Foo-Foo, The Muppet Newsman||Performer|
|2013–2014||Muppisodes||Kermit the Frog, Beaker, Rizzo the Rat, Statler|
|2014||Disney Drive-On with The Muppets||Kermit the Frog|
|2016||The Muppets Present...Great Moments in American History||Kermit the Frog||Voice, theme park show|
|2019–present||CAVE-iN||Weldon the I.T. Guy||Performer, Internet videos|
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