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As of this month, “Sesame Street” has been on the air for 52 years. Over those five decades, the diverse cast has widened to include a variety of characters — human and muppet alike — from many different walks of life. But the newest resident is making history on “Sesame Street” as the first Asian-American muppet to join the neighborhood crew.
The 7-year-old Korean-American character, Ji-Young, will make her official debut on Thanksgiving Day, in “See Us Coming Together: A Sesame Street Special.” The special event sees all the Sesame Street residents preparing for Neighbor Day, when they will share the food, music or dance from their cultures. When a child tells Ji-Young (off-screen) to “go back home,” Ji-Young becomes upset, but she soon feels better after talking with Sesame Street’s other Asian American residents — plus friends like Elmo — who let her know that she belongs.
Some of the big names joining Ji-Young for the “See Us Coming Together” special include Simu Liu, Padma Lakshmi and Naomi Osaka.
Ji-Young has a couple of activities she loves: skateboarding and playing guitar. She really enjoys rocking out and revealed her favorite band in an interview with the Associated Press: the punk rock group The Linda Lindas.
“[T]hey’re so cool,” Ji-Young said. “And they rock out and they’re cool girls and most of them are Asian. They’re my heroes. If we can get the Linda Lindas on ‘Sesame Street,’ I would show them around.”
Ji-Young’s puppeteer, Kathleen Kim, played a huge role in shaping the personality of the show’s latest original muppet character — a task that felt weighty at times.
“I feel like I have a lot of weight that maybe I’m putting on myself to teach these lessons and to be this representative that I did not have as a kid,” Kim told the AP. But Leslie Carrara-Rudolph — who is the puppeteer behind Abby Cadabby — gave her some reassurance.
“It’s not about us … It’s about this message,” Carrara-Rudolph told her.
“See Us Coming Together” will be available on Nov. 25 on PBS local stations, HBO Max and the “Sesame Street” social media platforms.
Will you tune in to meet the new kid on the street?