Sesame Street has been making strides in representation and inclusivity, with the recent addition of its first Filipino-American muppet, TJ. The character is described as a second-generation Filipino-American boy who is proud to be an older brother to his baby sister. TJ joins Ji-Young, the show’s first Asian American muppet who debuted in 2021.
In a recent segment, TJ discusses the meaning of confidence with Ji-Young, Grover, and guest star Kal Penn. TJ shares that he is learning to speak Tagalog with his grandparents who live on the ground floor of his family’s building. His Lola, or grandmother, helps him whenever he doesn’t know a word. TJ also loves to help his grandparents in their garden and is excited to speak Tagalog when his extended family visits.
The character description reveals that TJ loves to play basketball and have a dance-off with his cousins during family gatherings. The puppeteer and voice actor who brings TJ to life is Yinan Shentu.
Rosemary Espina Palacios, Sesame Workshop’s director of talent outreach, inclusion and content development, hopes that TJ’s character will help “unravel the model minority stereotype” by showcasing the importance of confidence and family in Filipino-American culture. Ji-Young’s character was introduced in the Sesame Street special “See Us Coming Together” in 2021 and was created to combat anti-Asian hate incidents.
Sesame Street continues to diversify its cast to represent different cultures and identities and promote inclusivity and representation.