More sunny days are ahead on "Sesame Street" with the arrival of a fresh face.
The beloved children's TV show held an open casting call for a new Hispanic character to join Maria, Luis, and the Muppet gang. Ismael Cruz Córdova, 26, landed the role of Armando, who is a writer, and has since set up residence on America's most popular street.
With Córdova making his debut on the classic children's series this week, we're going to channel The Count and share five (five!) things to know about the new neighbor...
1. He Learned English Watching "Sesame Street." "Being cast is beautiful, it's nostalgic, and it brings me back to when I was watching the show in the mountains of Puerto Rico, knowing not a word of English, and watching it to learn English," Córdova tells Yahoo TV. "I began learning English watching the show, and I later polished my English because I revisited the show when I was taking AP English and had confusion over vowel sounds. So I checked out an episode and it finally clicked."
2. The First Person He Called When He Landed the Role Was… his mother, who also grew up watching the show and, as a Latino mom, felt represented by the character of Maria, says Córdova. "My mom was the one who sat me down to watch 'Sesame Street,' and I always share my news with her first," he smiles. "She's been a great supporter. She did not get the chance to have higher education herself, but she created an atmosphere — even through struggle because we come from a lower socioeconomic class family with high illiteracy rates — where we're the first generation not only to go to college, but also to achieve these things. I went to NYU and graduated with honors; one of my sisters is finishing her Masters in early childhood education to become a principal; and my other sister is a lawyer. So she did it right."
3. His Character, Mando, Loves Words and Technology. "My character is a writer — poetry, short stories, anything related to words," he says. "But he also embraces social media and technology. He tries to use whatever he has at hand, if it's a phone, a recorder, a computer — as fancy or as limited as it is — for self-expression."
4. His Favorite Muppet Is… The Count. And he does a cute impression of the math guru, singing, "'I count slowly, slowly, slowly getting faster, fast, faster…" before bursting into laughter. "My other favorite is Snuffleupagus. He's so gentle, and those long eyelashes, you know? I can try to philosophize about why I love them, but you gravitate to your favorite character right away, and that's about it."
5. So What's It Really Like on Sesame Street? "It's everything that you think it is," he says of being on the set of the iconic show. So … a lot of cookies everywhere? "There's maybe more props than cookies," he laughs. "But it's just as magical as you expect it to be. It's as real as you expect it to be. Even when you see it as an adult, as a set, you see the Sesame Street kids see when they turn on the TV. I'm working there in a very technical way when I'm there. But the magic doesn't go away, even when you see the sets taken apart and put back together. It's just very real, and very beautiful, and it carries that energy of legacy."
The 44th season of “Sesame Street” debuted Sept. 16 on PBS.