Whatever Happened To The Cast Of Sesame Street?

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Since 1969, the beloved PBS children's show "Sesame Street" has brought sunny days to the homes of families across the globe that love learning and, of course, large puppets. From Big Bird and Elmo to Oscar the Grouch and many more lovable characters, the show has become an icon for teaching children an array of different topics, such as the alphabet, languages, and counting. It is safe to say that the Cookie Monster will always bring out the inner child in us, no matter how old we get. Yet, there are some things in the show that only adults would notice.

Outside of our favorite puppet characters come the human neighbors that made the show feel effortlessly magical. How could we ever forget about Mr. Hooper and his shop?! Plenty of actors have come and gone throughout the series — some replacing others and adding new faces we grew to love. However, the series' original characters and other longtime characters on the show have made an everlasting impact on not only "Sesame Street" but also the world.

But where are those friendly neighbors today, you may ask? Well, some continued acting, while others focused on directing, producing, and writing. Wherever the road took our favorite crew, they will always have a special place in our hearts and remain an integral part of our childhood. Keep reading to see what happened to the cast of "Sesame Street."

Emilio Delgado works in TV and theater after his longtime run on Sesame Street

Emilio Delgado, otherwise known as the beloved Luis Rodriguez, the Fix-It Shop owner on the popular children's show, is one of the most influential Mexican-American actors on television. He first premiered on the show back in 1971 and has been a huge part of bringing sunny days to children for over four decades. After 44 years on "Sesame Street," Delgado departed from the show in 2016 at age 79 when he was let go alongside a few other original cast members (via E! News). More on that soon.

In an interview with The Boston Globe, Delgado reflected on his time working on "Sesame Street" and his departure from the iconic show. "Things change. The world changes," he said. "Fifty years is a magnificent thing to look back on, in terms of being out there for children and families, not only in the [U.S.] but all over the world. I think ... [it's] something very much to be proud of." However, 2016 wasn't the last time viewers got to see the actor: He made an appearance on "Sesame Street's 50th Anniversary Celebration" in 2019.

Aside from his iconic role as Luis, Delgado has starred in a number of theater productions. In 2020, he starred in Alley Theater's production of "Quixote Nuevo," an adaptation of "Don Quixote" focusing on the Latino experience. According to the actor's IMDb, he also had roles in "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," "The Bravest Knight," and "The Get Down." 

Emmy winner Sonia Manzano developed her own animated series for PBS

For 44 years, Sonia Manzano portrayed the lovable character Maria Figueroa Rodriguez, the shop owner and wife of Luis Rodriguez, on "Sesame Street." In 2015, at the American Library Association Annual Conference in San Francisco, the actress announced she was departing the show (via CNN). According to Deadline, Manzano won a Lifetime Achievement Daytime Emmy Award in 2016 as well as 15 Emmy Awards for her writing work on the show. After leaving the beloved series, the actress published several children's books with Scholastic and released her autobiography, "Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx," in August 2015. In 2019, she starred in "Sesame Street's 50th Anniversary Celebration." Her other acting credits include "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and "The Casagrandes" (via IMDb). 

Her most recent work is the show "Alma's Way," which Manzano wrote and produced for PBS Kids. The animated series, which was inspired by her own children, is about 6-year-old Alma Rivera, a Puerto Rican girl living in the Bronx, New York, with her family. In an October 2021 interview with Variety, Manzano spoke about how the goal of the show, which was for children to think and learn about social awareness rather simply memorizing information. "I thought this was a cool message to kids that, if you have a brain, you could figure things out by observing the world around you and applying it to solving your own problems."

Loretta Long is a published author of multiple books

On "Sesame Street," Loretta Long played the role of Susan Robinson, Gordon's wife, a role she played since the show first debuted in 1969. Aside from her active role on the children's show, which included a host of specials and TV movies, she starred on TV in "Soul!" as well as multiple summer theater productions, including "Sweet Charity" and "Guys and Dolls," according to her Sesame Workshop bio. Long, a former teacher, also earned her doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts. Although phased out of the show after 2017, via IMDb, she did return for "Sesame Street's 50th Anniversary Celebration" in 2019, which was hosted by Joseph Gordon Levitt and featured other original cast members, including Bob McGrath, Emilio Delgado, and Sonia Manzano.

Outside of her acting career, Long focused on her writing and produced multiple books, including the autobiography "From Paw Paw to Sesame Street: My Journey," released in February 2015. She released her second book, "My Best Friends Call Me Susan," co-written with Scott Alboum, in July 2016.

Roscoe Orman landed other TV roles and released a memoir and children's book

Roscoe Orman was the third person to play the role of teacher Gordon Robinson on "Sesame Street," a role he began in 1973. Orman landed multiple other roles in television series since his time on "Sesame Street," including "Last Resort," "New Amsterdam," and "Blue Bloods" (via IMDb). Outside of acting, Orman released two books, a memoir, "Sesame Street Dad: Evolution of an Actor," published in June 2006, about his experience on the show for three decades, and the children's book "Ricky and Mobo," published in November 2013.

In an interview with Time in November 2014, Orman looked back on his character and the significance the show had on the world, saying, "Sesame Street holds a very special place in the heart of American and worldwide audiences that would be hard to replace."

In 2016, Orman was one of several longtime "Sesame Street" actors who were let go from the program as part of HBO's takeover of the show (via Distractify). 

Bob McGrath is an award-winning children's content creator

Bob McGrath, otherwise known as Bob, the resident music teacher on the PBS show, was part of the "Sesame Street" crew since it debuted in 1969. McGrath, like his fellow former co-stars Emilio Delgado and Roscoe Orman, was let go when the program transitioned to HBO.

Since his work on the show, McGrath continued creating content to educate children through the arts, from producing music to writing books. His latest release, "Bob's Favorite Sing Along Songs," won multiple awards, including the 2013 Parents' Choice Classic Award, the Academics' Choice Award, and the Family Choice Award (via Bob McGrath). McGrath has authored eight children's books, including the learning manners book "Oops! Excuse Me, Please!" and the potty training story "Uh Oh! Gotta Go!" It's safe to say that McGrath is an icon for his dedication and passion to children's education throughout the course of his career. 

As of this writing, McGrath is married to his wife of 63 years, Ann, and share five children and eight grandchildren together (via Sesame Workshop). 

Sesame Street used the death of Will Lee as a teachable moment

Will Lee, otherwise known as storekeeper Mr. Hooper, was arguably one of the most influential characters on "Sesame Street." The American actor was one of the four original human characters on the show when it debuted in 1969. He appeared on the series for 13 years until his death. According to his New York Times obituary, Lee died in December 1982 from a heart attack at age 74.

Instead of immediately replacing the actor after his death, the writers and producers of "Sesame Street" decided to demonstrate how the puppets, specifically Big Bird, were to cope with death and grief in the historic "Farewell to Mr. Hooper" episode. The heart-wrenching episode aired on Thanksgiving of 1983, according to the Television Academy Foundation. The episode earned the series the Peabody Award, alongside a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing the next year (via Heavy). 

Caroll Spinney, who provided the voice of Big Bird, said the episode was a great teaching opportunity for children when explaining death, per AV Club. "I think it was one of the best things we ever did," he said.

Alison Bartlett is an Emmy-nominated television actress and producer

Alison Bartlett played the role of Gina Jefferson, the street-smart teenager, on "Sesame Street" from 1986 to 2017. Throughout her time on the show, the audience has watched her character grow from a teenager working in Mr. Hooper's store to a college student to eventually becoming a veterinarian. Her acting credits outside of "Sesame Street," according to IMDb, include "Hightown," "Submission," "The Innkeepers," "Law and Order: Criminal Intent," and "Donny!" In 2019, she reunited alongside her former co-stars in "Sesame Street's 50th Anniversary Celebration." Additionally, Bartlett received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Special for her role in "It's Only Rock & Roll" (via The Washington Post).

Bartlett created the semi-autobiographical TV series "Carry Me" about an ex-party girl and mother of three, in which she wrote, directed, and starred. In 1995, Bartlett married Harry O'Reilly (per IMDb). The couple resides in New York with their three children (via Sesame Workshop). 

Alan Muraoka splits his time between Broadway and directing

Between performing, acting, and directing, Alan Muraoka can do it all, He joined the "Sesame Street" cast in 1996 as Alan and can be found in front of and behind the camera. Aside from bringing sunny days to "Sesame Street," Muraoka was featured in "City on a Hill," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "30 Rock," and "Brotherhood" (via IMDb). In an interview with NBC News, Muraoka described what working on the set of "Sesame Street" was like as an Asian-American. "What I love about Sesame is that it's a world of universal acceptance: where humans, animals, monsters, fairies, and Snuffleupaguses can live in harmony."

Muraoka made his way to Broadway and also starred in several main stage performances, including "The King and I," "My Favorite Year," "Miss Saigon," and "Anything Goes" (via Alan Muraoka). In 2013, he was awarded the APEX Award for Youth Inspiration for his work mentoring children in New York City. 

Aside from acting, Muraoka has a passion for directing. In November 2021, he spoke with the Pioneer Theater Company about producing "Elf The Musical," his past projects, and the transition between acting and directing. "The only time it becomes a small challenge is when I am both directing and acting in the same episode. It's a lot of hats to wear at the same time, but I have figured out how to make that work and I am luckily surrounded by great people who help support me," he said.

After Sesame Street, Charlotte Rae landed an iconic sitcom role

Who could ever forget about Molly the Mail Lady? Charlotte Rae secured the role on "Sesame Street" for a single season that aired in 1971 and 1972. Rae made a name for herself in the entertainment industry and was featured in multiple television series, including "The Facts of Life," "Girl Meets World," "ER," "101 Dalmatians: The Series," and "Pretty Little Liars" (via IMDb). Outside of TV, Rae also has a love for theater. She received two Tony Award nominations for her Broadway performances in "Pickwick" in 1965 and "Morning, Noon and Night" in 1968 (via Playbill). In November 2015, she released her memoir, "The Facts of My Life."

In 2017, the star revealed to People her diagnosis of bone cancer. According to her publicist, Harlan Boll, the "Facts of Life" actress died in August 2018, at 92 years old (via The Hollywood Reporter). On Twitter, "Sesame Street" remembered the beloved actress for her work on the show, saying she would be "greatly missed by everyone on Sesame Street," writing, "Today we remember our beloved cast member, Charlotte Rae. Charlotte played Molly the Mail Lady on Sesame Street in 1971. Charlotte was a friend to all."

Tony winner Michael Jeter appeared in many roles on television and film

Mr. Noodle, otherwise known as the beloved Michael Jeter, was featured in the "Elmo's World" segment of "Sesame Street" at the beginning of 2000. Outside of "Sesame Street," Jeter starred in many well-known films and television series, including "The Polar Express," "Open Range," "Hey Arnold!" and "Jurassic Park III" (via IMDb). The actor took home a Tony Award in 1990 for his role in the musical adaptation of "Grand Hotel" (via Playbill). He was also awarded an Emmy in 1993 for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his work on the CBS series "Evening Shade." 

According to The New York Times, Jeter died in April 2003 at 50 years old of "natural causes." He was survived by his partner, Sean Blue. Although the exact cause of death is unknown, his publicist, Dick Guttman, shared that, although he tested positive for HIV, he was in good health at the time of his death. According to AP News, Guttman stated, "Kids would recognize him and come running up to him, 'Mr. Noodle! Mr. Noodle,‴ Guttman said. "He really loved that.″

David Smyrl won multiple Emmys and worked as a TV actor and writer

David Smyrl was the second actor to play the role of Mr. Hanford, who ran Hooper's Store, on "Sesame Street" from 1990 to 1998. The role eventually earned him eight Emmy Awards (via The Philadelphia Inquirer). According to his IMDb profile, Smyrl also starred in "Heavy Sedation," "ER," "Anarchy Online: The Animated Series," and "Law & Order." In the 1970s, the actor won a People's Choice Award for his role on the sitcom "Benson," and he even worked on "The Cosby Show" as a writer and actor, playing contractor Sam Lucas, according to BuzzFeed News

In March 2016, Smyrl's wife, Cheryl, announced he was diagnosed with lung cancer and later died at Lankenau Medical Center outside of Philadelphia at the age of 80 (via Penn Live). According to The Hollywood Reporter, Smyrl's wife remembered her late husband by sharing his love for working with children, including his work on "Sesame Street." "He was funny," she recalled. "I could say so many good things about him. He was loved by so many people. He was a mentor to a lot of children. He was a family man, loyal, true and faithful."