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'Sesame Street' Gets a New Latina Neighbor

Photograph by Sesame Workshop

Not only does "Sesame Street" have a new address this season on HBO, they've also got a new resident — a millennial, bilingual Latina played by Cuban-American actress Suki Lopez.

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"Sesame Street" is Lopez's TV series debut, but she's no stranger to the stage; she's got a background in musical theater and has appeared in the national tour of "West Side Story" (and was an understudy for the role of "Anita," made famous by EGOT legend Rita Moreno) and in Disney Cruise Line theater productions, among other roles.

Promotional materials for the 46th season of "Sesame Street" note that her character, "Nina," will use "her wit, compassion and charisma to help the furry residents of Sesame Street solve their daily dilemmas, providing a positive role for preschoolers." She's also described as "a tinkerer, a builder and a fixer," who will work at the neighborhood bike shop, and have a special relationship with Rosita, the show's turqoise, bilingual female muppet.

HBO's involvement in "Sesame Street" will bring in enough money to produce twice as many new episodes per season (the show has changed to a 30-minute episode format) and spin off new programming. But there's a small catch with the move to the premium cable channel.

This season will also feature a diverse list of celebrity guest stars, including Gina Rodriguez, Lupita Nyong'o, Gwen Stefani, Pharrell and others.

Although HBO released the first two episodes of the new season on Sesame Workshop's YouTube channel, all other episodes will air first on HBO before they later air on PBS for the next five years. (You'll have to wait nine months for the new season to hit regular TV channels.) However, new episodes will also debut simultaneously on HBO Latino, dubbed in Spanish.

"Mando," played by Ismael Cruz Cordova, was the most recent new Latino cast member to join the show in 2013. Before that, there were only two permanent cast members who were Latino — Sonia Manzano (María) and Emilio Delgado (Luis). Sesame Street also added a character with autism named Julia in 2015 to include lessons on children with disabilities.

Sonia Manzano's addition to the show in 1971 was historic; she was the first Latina lead character on "Sesame Street." In June 2015, Manzano announced at the American Library Association annual conference that she would be leaving the show after 45 years as a resident of "Sesame Street." In August, Sonia Manzano released a memoir detailing her rough childhood in the South Bronx, how she got to "Sesame Street" and the career trajectory that earned her 15 Emmys for TV writing and many other awards and accolades.

This season will also feature a diverse list of celebrity guest stars, including Gina Rodriguez, Lupita Nyong'o, Gwen Stefani, Pharrell and others.

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