NEW YORK — All over the country today, children got to meet “Armando” — otherwise known as “Mando” — the new Latino character on “Sesame Street.”
Ismael Cruz Córdova, 26, who plays “Mando” on Sesame Street, also spoke to NBC Latino Thursday from the Sesame Workshop in New York City to talk about his new role. Cruz Córdova arrived in New York City from rural Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico at 19 to pursue a career in acting. Seven years later, he’s already won an HOLA and ACE award, working on various TV and film projects, and is a new character on one of the most popular children’s television shows for more than three decades.
“It’s been pretty wild,” says Cruz Córdova. “I’ve been traveling a lot, lots of live performances…the journey has been busy and fulfilling.”
He says one of his favorite parts of playing his new character is meeting so many curious and excited kids and going through the experience with their parents.
“I even get fan mail from parents telling me how important my character is, representing the Latino community,” says Cruz Córdova humbly.
Mexican-born Carmen Osbahr, who plays the puppet “Rosita,” also spoke to NBC Latino, and says she’s very proud of playing one of the first Latina characters on the show for 24 years.
“When Jim Henson hired me, I didn’t speak a word of English — I learned English on Sesame Street,” she says laughing, adding that Sesame Street’s programming will now be evolving to focus on a pre-school curriculum. “Rosita is very happy to have a new neighbor. It’s wonderful that Mando speaks Spanish — she feels like he is part of her family. What Mando brings to the show is great. He’s a writer.”
Cruz Córdova adds that he made himself a writer on the show, just as he is in real life, to inspire kids to explore their creative side.
“I want the character to keep bringing this impetus for self-expression and empowerment in a fun way and to sing and dance a lot,” he says. Apart from teaching the children about culture, he also hopes “Mando” inspires children to celebrate being Latino and the fact that “we are also a part of a global community.”