Emilio Delgado, Sesame Street actor for 45 years, dies at 81 | sesame street

Actor and singer Emilio Delgado, the warm and familiar presence in children’s lives for 45 years as the owner of a Luis DIY store on Sesame Street, has died.

His wife, Carol Delgado, said he died of blood cancer multiple myeloma at their home in New York. He was 81 years old.

As Luis, Delgado, a Mexican American, was able to play an ordinary, non-stereotypical Latino character at a time when there were few such portrayals on television, for adults or children.

“There really was no representation of real people,” Delgado said in a 2021 interview on the Famous Cast Words YouTube series. “Most of the roles I’ve come out for were either bandits or gang members.”

That changed with Sesame Street, where a diverse cast interacted with a diverse group of kids, as well as Jim Henson’s creations Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Elmo, and Grover.

Delgado joined the show in its third season in 1971. He said the producers took up his suggestion to sprinkle Spanish terms into the script.

“The first time I saw Big Bird walking, my line was ‘Big Bird,'” Delgado said in the 2021 interview. “But I didn’t say ‘Big Bird,’ I said ‘pajaro‘.”

Delgado was born in 1940 in Calexico, California, near the US-Mexico border and grew up a few miles away in Mexicali, Mexico.

From his home, he could hear music into the night from a pair of beer gardens across the street.

“I remember falling asleep to the sound of mariachi music,” he said in a 2011 interview on the Up Close series with Patsy Smullin.

As a young man, he moved to Los Angeles to become an actor but was unlucky. He received a surprise call from the producers of Sesame Street in New York.

After an interview with producer Jon Stone, who spoke to Delgado but didn’t ask for any sort of audition, he got the job.

“He didn’t want actors,” Delgado said in the 2021 interview. “He wanted real people.

He will remain on the show for 45 years – a part of childhood for generations of children, and for Latino children, a rare character who looks like them.

“His warmth and humor invited the children to share a friendship that spanned generations,” the Sesame Workshop said in a statement. “At the forefront of representation, Emilio proudly claimed the ‘longest-serving record for a Mexican-American in a television series’. We are so grateful that he shared his talents with us and with the world.

Luis married the show’s other prominent Latina, Maria Figueroa, played by Sonia Manzano, in a ceremony on the show in 1988.

“Luis and Maria were the first Latinos I ever saw on TV,” Deadline TV reporter Rosy Cordero said on Twitter. “They were an integral part of my family. They paved the way. »

Delgado left the show when his contract was not renewed during a retooling in 2016.

He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in late 2020, but was still making appearances and giving interviews in 2021, until his health began to decline.

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