Emilio Delgado, Luis Rodriguez of ‘Sesame Street’, dies at 81

Emilio Delgadoactor best known for his beloved role as “Fix-It-Shop” owner Luis Rodriguez on “sesame street“, died, confirmed his representative to Variety. He was 81 years old.

“We are saddened by the news of Emilio’s passing,” Robert Attermann, CEO of A3 Artists Agency, said in a statement. “Emilio was a tremendous talent who brought so much joy and smiles to his fans. He will be missed by many and we know his legacy will live on. Our thoughts are with his loved ones, including his wife, Carole.

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A Mexican-American born in California and raised in Mexico, Delgado got his start as an actor in the late 60s while working in a summer theater. Her very first screen credit was in the Mexican soap opera “Canción de la Raza”. In 1970, he enrolled as a student at the California Institute of the Arts. The summer before his second year at school, he interviewed Jon Stone, the head producer and screenwriter of “Sesame Street,” and was hired as a new cast member for the third season. Delgado’s casting was part of an initiative to improve the show’s Spanish-language segments, bringing more Latin American cast members to the program.

As kind-hearted store owner Luis, Delgado would star in “Sesame Street” for 44 years – from 1971 to 2015, and is credited in 428 episodes. Along with iconic neighborhood puppets like Big Bird and Elmo, his most frequent stage partner was Sonia Manzano, who portrayed Luis’ girlfriend Maria on the groundbreaking children’s show. The two characters married in an episode that aired in 1988 and welcomed their daughter Gabi to Sesame Street a year later. On the show, Delgado frequently led Spanish language learning and Hispanic culture classes, and often sang and played guitar during musical segments.

Delgado stopped appearing regularly on “Sesame Street” episodes after his contract was not renewed due to a 2016 retooling of the series from the production company. He made a final appearance on the show in 2017, in the episode “Having a Ball”, and has continued to represent the show with his longtime co-stars at public events. In 2019, he appeared in the special “Sesame Street 50th Anniversary Celebration”. In 2021, he was interviewed in the “Sesame Street” retrospective documentary “Street Gang”, which examined the early years of the famous program. In interviews with the filmmakers, Delgado discussed the impact of “Sesame Street” on his life and the importance the character had in challenging mainstream portrayals of Latino men on television.

“It was very difficult, in those days, to find meaningful work as Latino actors,” Delgado said in the film. “I don’t remember reading anything for a positive character. The only roles I could find were gang members or drug addicts. I realized that I had gotten a role on television which was the role of a Latino, Mexican-American, who was like an ordinary person. He was part of the neighborhood, he had his own business. It was a role that hadn’t been shown before.

When “Sesame Street” was unrecorded, Delgado continued to make television appearances. Notable guest spots had included “Hawaii Five-O”, “Quincy ME”, “Law & Order”, “Cupid”, “House of Cards”, and “The Get Down”. He also had a recurring role as editor of the Emmy-winning drama series “Lou Grant.” In 2018, he provided voice overs for the popular video game “Red Dead Redemption 2”. He has also starred in theater productions in Los Angeles and New York, including a 2020 modern adaptation of “Don Quixote,” “Quixote Nuevo,” written by Octavio Solis and premiered at the Alley Theater.

At the time of his death, Delgado served on the board of directors of the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice, an LGBTQ+ safe space and community activism center dedicated to honoring civil rights pioneer Bayard Rustin.

Delgado is survived by his wife Carole and his two children.

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Edward K. Thompson