Sesame Street has debuted TJ, its first Filipino muppet. TJ joins Ji-Young, the show’s first Asian American character, who was introduced in a special Thanksgiving episode in 2021.
In a recent segment of the children’s TV show, TJ spends time with fellow muppets Ji-Young and Grover, and actor Kal Penn, who discusses the word of the day: confidence. “Confidence is when you believe in yourself and your abilities, or in the abilities of others,” Penn explains.
TJ then talks about his growing confidence while learning Tagalog, one of the main languages spoken in the Philippines. “I’m confident because I can always ask my lola for help when I don’t know a word,” he says, using the Tagalog term for grandmother.
Filipino American animator Bobby Pontillas collaborated with puppeteer Louis Mitchell to create the muppet. On Instagram, Pontillas shared concept artwork for the character, who he said was inspired by Max and Mateo, the children of lifelong friends. TJ is played by voice actor and puppeteer Yinan Shentu.