Sesame Street Introduces First Filipino Muppet, TJ, for AAPI Month Celebration.

Filipino Muppet

“Sesame Street,” the beloved children’s program on PBS, delighted audiences by introducing its first Filipino American Muppet during a recent episode. The new character, named TJ, made his debut in a segment focused on the theme of confidence.

During the segment, Asian Excellence Award winner and former White House staffer Kal Penn engaged in a conversation with TJ about confidence. Penn shared his experiences of feeling confident when acting or speaking in front of people and then asked TJ how he expressed his confidence. TJ replied, “Oh well, I’m learning Tagalog. It’s a language my Filipino family speaks, and I have confidence because I can always ask my lola [grandma] for help when I don’t know a word.”

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Accompanying TJ and Penn was Ji-Young, a Korean American Muppet who joined “Sesame Street” in 2021. Ji-Young contributed to the discussion by emphasizing that confidence can also be derived from the support of friends and family. She showcased her guitar skills by playing a lick and shared that learning new songs made her feel confident.

TJ, the brainchild of Filipino American animation director Bobby Pontillas, was introduced to the world through a sketch shared on Instagram. Pontillas expressed his excitement for working with the Sesame Workshop team and creating a Filipino Muppet. He extended his gratitude to his collaborators, including Rosemary Espina Palacios and Yinan Shentu, for their contributions in bringing TJ to life.

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Rosemary Espina Palacios, the director of talent outreach, inclusion, and content development at Sesame Workshop, also shared her pride and joy in the project on Instagram. As a Filipino herself, she admitted to shedding happy tears on set upon completing the filming. She hoped that her mother, who she knew was watching, shared the same level of excitement. Palacios expressed her pride in bringing Filipino representation to Sesame Street, particularly during API Heritage Month, highlighting the importance of showcasing the diversity within the Filipino diaspora and challenging stereotypes.

The character of TJ is portrayed by voice actor and puppeteer Yinan Shentu, who enthusiastically shared several selfies with the newest addition to the “Sesame Street” family.

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In conclusion, “Sesame Street” continues its tradition of inclusivity and representation by introducing TJ, the first Filipino American Muppet. Through engaging segments on confidence, the show celebrates the cultural diversity and encourages children to embrace their unique identities. The addition of TJ to the cast provides Filipino American children with a character they can identify with and be inspired by. The positive response to TJ’s debut reflects the importance of representation and the ongoing efforts of “Sesame Street” to create a more inclusive and diverse television landscape for young viewers.