Sesame Street has debuted TJ, its first Filipino muppet. TJ joins Ji-Young, the show’s first Asian American character, who was introduced in a special Thanksgiving episode in 2021.
He is 4 years old and a second generation Filipino American. He enjoys entertaining his little sister, gardening with his grandparents and spending time with his other family members when they visit from California.
“He loves it when they all get together so he can help his mom make lumpia with all the veggies he picked, and so he can play basketball and have a dance off with his cousins,” Sesame Workshop said.
He is voiced by puppeteer and performer Yinan Shentu and created in part by Bobby Pontillas, a Filipino American animator. Rosemary Espina Palacios, Sesame Workshop’s director of talent outreach, inclusion and content development, also celebrated TJ’s arrival on Sesame Street.
“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 wrote on Instagram. “His first segment with @kalpenn and Ji-Young is all about confidence, something I personally feel can help unravel the model minority stereotype.”
In a recent segment in the children’s TV show, TJ spends time with fellow muppets Ji-Young and Grover, and actor Kal Penn, who discusses the word of the day: confidence. “Confidence is when you believe in yourself and your abilities, or in the abilities of others,” Penn explains.
TJ is the latest addition to a diverse cast of new characters on “Sesame Street.” In addition to Ji-Young, the program’s first Asian American muppet, the show introduced two Black muppets in 2021: Wes and his father Elijah.