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 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, 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.
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.
|Alan Muraoka||A "warm and welcoming character," and the proprietor of Hooper's Store after its more contemporary redesign in 1998.|
|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.|
||Ismael Cruz Córdova||An energetic Latino writer and "techie [who] loves his gadgets".|
|Billy Tuesday (2004)||Taylor Matalon||Jane Tuesday's "wily and mischievous brother", who seems to always be at the scene of the crime.|
|Bob McGrath||A regular on the show since its premiere, Bob is Sesame Street's resident music teacher.|
|Buddy and Jim||Brandon Maggart and Jim Catusi||"Two bumblers" who appeared in the first episode of Sesame Street.|
|Buffy Sainte-Marie||Aboriginal Canadian folk singer who appeared in an "understated" scene about breastfeeding with Big Bird and her infant son Cody. Buffy helped introduced Native American culture to Sesame Street's audience.|
|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. |
|Annette Calud||A regular for four years who was part of the "Around the Corner" expansion. She was a dance teacher. |
|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.|
|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.|
|Northern Calloway||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.|
|Edith Ann||Lily Tomlin||Tomlin's comic, childlike character who appeared in five segments on Sesame Street.|
|Lily Tomlin||Tomlin's famous nasal-voice telephone operator.|
|Gabriela "Gabi" Rodriguez||Gabriela Rose Reagan (1989–91)
|Daughter of Luis and Maria Rodriguez (born 1989), her character was created as part of the show's curriculum about love, marriage, and childbirth.|
|Dr. Gina Jefferson||Alison Bartlett-O'Reilly (1987-2017)||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.|
|Garrett Saunders (1969)
Matt Robinson (1969–1972)
Hal Miller (1972–1974)
Roscoe Orman (1974-2016)
|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".|
|Gedde Watanabe||An artist|
|Mr. Harold Hooper
|Will Lee||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 what author Michael Davis called "a landmark broadcast" that aired on Thanksgiving Day, 1983.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|Eugene Byrd||Byrd was hired by producer Dulcy Singer as a part of a curriculum push about race relations..|
|Jada Rowland||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.|
|Leela (2008 - 2015)||Nitya Vidyasagar||Indian American character who runs Sesame Street's laundromat.|
|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.|
|Lillian||Lillias White||White, a Broadway star of many productions, won an Emmy for her portrayal of Lillian.|
|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.|
|Emilio Delgado||Davis calls Luis "a tenderhearted Hispanic man"; Luis married Maria in 1998, and his daughter Gabi was born in 1989.|
|Marco Jefferson||Gina's adopted son from Guatemala.|
|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.|
|Jaime Sánchez||First Latino cast member|
|Ward Saxton||A teenage Fix-It Shop worker.|
|Miles Robinson||Miles Orman (1985–1995)
Kevin Clash (episode 2312)
Imani Patterson (1995–2002)
Olamide Faison (2003–)
|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".|
|Charlotte Rae||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 (1990–1998)
|The owner of Hooper's Store. Jackson played "the grumpier version" of the character, while Smyrl played the "smiling, singing" Mr. Handford.|
|Chester O'Brien||A fruit vendor played by Sesame Street's floor manager.|
|Mr. Noodle||Bill Irwin (1998)||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".|
|Mr. Noodle's Brother, Mr. Noodle (2000–2003)||Michael Jeter||Mr. Noodle's brother who appeared in the Elmo's World segments, often with his brother.|
|Mr. Noodle's Sister, Ms. Noodle||Kristin Chenoweth||Mr. Noodle's sister who appeared in Elmo's World.|
|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.|
|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.|
|Nina (2016–)||Suki Lopez||Young bilingual Hispanic woman who works at the Bicycle Shop and the Sesame Street laundromat.|
|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.|
|Alaina Reed||Gordon's sister and a professional photographer.|
|Pirate Captain (2007)||Tina Fey||A "Swashbuckling captain" of the Bookaneers, a group of pirates who love to read.|
|Raul Julia||A Puerto Rican man who was partnered with Luis in the L & R Fix-It Shop.|
|Ruth Buzzi||Proprietor of Sesame Street's thrift shop Finders Keepers; part of the "Around the Corner" expansion in the early 1990s.|
|A young girl who appeared in the first episode of Sesame Street|
|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.|
|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".|
|Loretta Long||Sesame Street Unpaved calls Susan a "maternal figure". Gordon's wife, one of three regular characters that appeared on the show's premiere.|
|Tarah Lynne Schaeffer||The first regularly appearing character on Sesame Street who used a wheelchair; served as a positive role model for children with disabilities.|
|Larry Block||Worked at Hooper's Store.|
|Roscoe Orman||Spoof of the 1930s superhero Flash Gordon. He is the alter-ego of Gordon.|
|Mrs. Mae Trump||Loretta Tupper||Played by the radio performer of the 1930s and 1940s, she played the piano on Sesame Street.|
|Bill McCutcheon||"A fun-loving, down-to-earth, endearing older gentleman".|
|Wanda Falbo (Word Fairy)
|Andrea Martin||Played by SCTV alum who won an Emmy for her work on Sesame Street.|
|Wally and Ralph
|Paul Price and Joe Ponazecki||A comedy team in the tradition of Laurel and Hardy who appeared during season 3.|
||Kermit Love||Hot dog vendor. He was played by the Muppet designer who co-created Big Bird and Mr. Snuffleupagus.|
- Gladwell, p. 106
- Lesser, p. 99
- Lesser, p. 125
- Borgenicht, p. 15
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