“Sesame Street” has introduced its first Filipino-American muppet, TJ, the first Asian-American character to join the show since Ji-youngan Asian-American muppet who was featured in a 2021 Thanksgiving episode.
TJ debuted in a video the Sunday in which he learned the meaning of the word “trust” with the actor Kal Pen, “Sesame Street” veteran Grover and Ji-Young
In the short video, TJ said that he was working on learning Tagalog, the language his Filipino family speaks. He added that he is confident when he learns the language because he can always ask his “Lola”, the Tagalog word for grandmother, for help when he doesn’t know a word.
Filipino American artist and animator Bobby Pontillas shared initial sketches of TJ’s character on Instagram, saying he collaborated with master puppeteer Louis Mitchell to create the Filipino American boy.
Pontillas said that the character’s look is inspired by his lifelong friends, Max and Mateo.
“I had the amazing opportunity to work with the geniuses at Sesame Workshop to create a Filipino muppet for @sesamestreet,” Pontillas said in her post. “Meet TJ!”
TJ’s character is voiced and puppeteered by Yinan Shentu, who also took to Instagram to share photos of himself with TJ and a behind-the-scenes look at the character’s first appearance on “Sesame Street.”
Rosemary Espina Palcios, director of talent outreach, inclusion and content development for “Sesame Street,” said on Instagram that she is excited to bring TJ and her culture to the beloved children’s show.
“So proud to help bring some Filipino representation to the neighborhood, and just in time for API Heritage Month to show our rank in our diaspora,” Palacio wrote. “Her first segment with @kalpenn and Ji-Young is all about confidence, something I personally feel can help unravel the model minority stereotype.”
May marks Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which recognizes the cultures and achievements of Asian Americans in the US.
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