There will soon be three fewer familiar faces in the “Sesame Street” neighborhood.
During a panel at Florida Supercon on July 2, 84-year-old original “Sesame Street” cast member Bob McGrath said that he, along with longtime co-stars Emilio Delgado (Luis) and Roscoe Orman (Gordon) had been let go by the long-running series.
McGrath added that the move was just another part of “Sesame Street’s” recent retooling, both with its move to HBO, as well as its shortened episodes.
“They let all of the original cast members go, with the exception of Alan Muraoka — who is probably 20 years younger than the rest of us — and Chris Knowings, who is also young,” McGrath said, according to audio obtained by “The Muppet Cast” podcast.
“Sesame Street” released a statement via Twitter on Thursday morning confirming the cast changes, but stating that the three men “remain a beloved part of the ‘Sesame’ family.”
All the departing actors have served as foundational characters in the show, in some cases since its inception.
Orman, though the third actor to portray Gordon Robinson, played the role for more than 40 years after taking over the part in 1973, while Delgado joined the show as Luis.
In his biography, Orman said of Gordon, “what the character most significantly symbolizes, his most distinguishing and praiseworthy attribute, may lie in the simple fact that he is a man of African descent who for over three decades has been a respected and beloved father figure to young people of all races and all social classes all across America and beyond.”
McGrath was an original “Sesame Street” cast member, with the show when it premiered in November 1969. He sang on some of the show’s more memorable songs, including “The People in Your Neighborhood.”
Though McGrath’s original statement seemed to imply that the changes in the series were linked to the move to HBO, the statement released by “Sesame Street” made it clear that decisions involving the series were made exclusively by Sesame Workshop (formerly the Children’s Television Workshop.)
PBS Chief Executive Paula Kerger said as much Thursday morning at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, when asked about the changes.
“As you know, ‘Sesame Street’ is produced by Sesame Workshop, an independent production company. The casting decision was made by them. We did not know about it beforehand. We found out about it after,” Kerger said.
With McGrath’s departure, only two original cast members remain on the series. Loretta Long, who plays Susan Robinson, Gordon’s wife, and Caroll Spinney, the legendary puppeteer who plays Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.
“Sesame Street” is in the midst of its 46th season, now on HBO.