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'Sesame Street' gets new Hispanic character

| Sunday, May 12, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

As a child in Puerto Rico, Ismael Cruz was delighted by the colorful characters in “Sesame Street,” who entertained and educated him and helped him learn “Inglés.”

He could not have imagined that two decades later he would be playing with them in front of the cameras.

Cruz is the newest Hispanic addition to popular children series' cast, playing Armando, or “Mando.”

“ ‘Sesame Street' is a magical place. It doesn't matter if you are working there or just visiting, or if you're watching on TV, that magic is always there,” Cruz, 26, told the Associated Press. “I grew up watching the show, and, for me, it was a place that really existed and to which, as a child, I aspired to go, a place so diverse that I could see myself in the faces of the people that were there.”

Cruz's character is a Hispanic from Brooklyn who writes everything from short stories to movie scripts, and loves technology and social media.

The addition expands a cast of Hispanic characters that includes Maria (Sonia Manzano) and Luis (Emilio Delgado), human characters who debuted in 1971, and Rosita, the turquoise monster who joined in 1993 with Mexican puppeteer Carmen Osbahr, who also voices Ovejita.

The show wants to reflect the population changes in the U.S. It also features African-American, Asian and Native American characters.

“It's a show that's always cutting edge, that is always aware of what's going on with the population, so by including a character that is young, with new perspectives, Latino, and that bring that new generation, it is carrying on with that message,” Cruz said.

Cruz grew up poor in Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico, and his mother tuned in to “Sesame Street” so his son would learn English. Cruz studied music and dreamed of being an actor, eventually attending New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. He's appeared on “The Good Wife” and in films “In The Blood,” “White Alligator” and “Chaser.”

“Mando” will make his debut on the 44th season of “Sesame Street,” which starts airing on Sept. 16.

Claudia Torrens is a staff writer for the Associated Press.

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