Sesame Road has presented its first Filipino-American muppet, called TJ.
They discuss the word of the day in a segment with actor Kal Penn and Ji-Young: confidence.
“Confidence is when you believe in yourself and your abilities, or in the abilities of others,” Penn makes sense of. TJ then shares an example of how his family’s support helped him gain confidence.
“I’m learning Tagalog. It’s a language my Filipino family speaks. And I have confidence because I can always ask my Lola for help when I don’t know a word,” TJ says, using the Tagalog word for grandmother.
The puppet was made by Filipino-American animator Bobby Pontillas, who teamed up with puppeteer Louis Mitchell. He talked about the thought behind the creation in an Instagram post.
“For his look, I based him off of my lifelong friends’ kids, Max and Mateo, thank you for the inspiration lads. I was blessed to collaborate with master puppeteer Louis Mitchell, the loveliest human on earth,” Pontillas wrote.
The character is played by voice actor and puppeteer Yinan Shentu. Numerous Filipino Americans and show-lovers were pleased with the new muppet’s introduction.
“This is one of many reasons I adored @SesameStreet as a child, their inclusiveness of all races/cultures. As a mature woman of certain age, I still do,” tweeted one.
One more said they were glad that “young ones will have someone to see,” yet added that it’s taken such a long time to do so that “it hurts”.
Another Twitter user said they “cannot get over how perfect of a hair choice this was for a Filipino muppet”.
After the show introduced Ji-Young, a Korean American skateboarder and guitarist who was seven years old, in 2021, TJ makes his acting debut. A lot of talk about anti-Asian crime culminated in her introduction.