Emilio Delgado, the Mexican-American actor best known for his role as Luis on “Sesame Street,” died on Thursday at the age of 81.
Sesame Workshop confirmed the news in a statement.
“A beloved member of the Sesame family for over 50 years, his warmth and humor invited children to share a friendship that has echoed through generations,” the company said in a release. “At the forefront of representation, Emilio proudly laid claim to the ‘record for the longest-running role for a Mexican-American in a TV series.’ We are so grateful he shared his talents with us and with the world.”
Delgado originally joined the cast of the show in 1971 and played Luis until 2016, when his contract was not renewed. After public outcry, he, Bob McGrath (who plays Bob) and Roscoe Orman (who played Gordon) were brought back for “Sesame Street’s 50th Anniversary Celebration” in 2019. He also kept playing Luis for events put on by Sesame Workshop.
“We are saddened by the news of Emilio’s passing,” Robert Attermann, the CEO of A3 Artists Agency, told TODAY in a statement. “Emilio was an immense talent who brought so much joy and smiles to his fans. He will be missed by many and we know his legacy will live on. Our thoughts are with his loved ones, including his wife, Carole.”
His agent, Renee Glicker, added that they were proud to have represented him for the past 15 years.
“Emilio was one of the most loving, generous and kind people I ever met,” Glicker told TODAY in a statement.
In addition to his lengthy career on the famous children’s show, he also had roles on “House of Cards” and in the “Law and Order” universe.
In a 2021 interview with All Arts TV, Delgado said his path to “Sesame Street” was an unusual one.
He said that one day he got a phone call “out of the blue” to audition for the show as he was looking at his “last unemployment check.”
A producer flew to Los Angeles to meet him and asked if he could speak Spanish and if he would shave his mustache.
“I’m like, ‘Yeah, sure — I’m thinking I’ll shave anything,’” he quipped.
He said that the audition process was just talking — no acting or singing — and that they eventually offered him the gig.
Delgado said the whole idea was to find “real people” not actors for the show.
“We all came together and it was like we knew each other already,” he explained. “Like, we were a family.”
Delgado added that it was important to showcase representation on screen.
“When I first got to Hollywood … there really wasn’t any representation of actual people, you know?” he said. “Most of the roles that I went out for were bandits or gang members or whatever … those were the only parts that were around for us.”
“Things have changed a little bit but it still has a long way to go.”
Samantha Kubota is a senior digital editor and journalist for TODAY Digital based in Los Angeles.
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