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TJ, first Filipino American muppet on 'Sesame Street,' makes debut

TJ appeared on "Sesame Street" this week in a video with actor Kal Penn and Korean American muppet Ji-Young.
TJ, first Filipino-American muppet on 'Sesame Street,' makes debut
Posted at 9:34 AM, May 16, 2023

There's a new resident on "Sesame Street." TJ became the first Filipino American muppet to appear on the children's show when he made his debut this week with Kal Penn. 

In the scene, the actor talks with TJ and Korean American muppet Ji-Young about having confidence.

"I'm learning Tagalog," TJ says. "It's a language my Filipino family speaks and I have confidence because I can always ask my lola for help when I don’t know a word."

Rosemary Espina Palacios, who serves as Sesame Workshop's director of talent outreach, inclusion and content development, said in an Instagram post that this project was personal for her. Palacios, who is of Filipino descent, shared a picture of her mother and her brother, whose name is TJ.

"I’m so proud to help bring some Filipino representation to the neighborhood, and just in time for API Heritage Month to show the range in our diaspora," she said.

TJ is voiced by Yinan Shentu, who appeared overwhelmed by the opportunity to bring the muppet to life. 

"I'm so ridiculously excited for the journey ahead," he said. "If you need me, I'll be in the corner drowning in imposter syndrome."

TJ was designed by Bobby Pontillas, a Filipino American director and artist. Pontillas said TJ's look was inspired by the children of a lifelong fiend.

"Sesame Street" debuted in 1969. Since its inception, the show has showcased people and muppets from various backgrounds to help children become "smarter, stronger, and kinder."

SEE MORE: Sesame Street commits to focusing on children's mental health

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