Emilio Delgado, the actor whose decades-long portrayal of Sesame Street‘s fix-it shop owner Luis Rodriguez endeared him to generations of young viewers and was a pioneering force in TV’s depiction of Mexican-Americans, died in New York City today just more than two years after being diagnosed with the blood cancer multiple myeloma. He was 81.
His death was confirmed by Sesame Workshop in a statement to Deadline. Delgado’s wife, Carole, disclosed the cause of death to TMZ.
Said Sesame Workshop: “Emilio Delgado, who played Luis on Sesame Street, passed away on March 10, 2022. A beloved member of the Sesame family for over 50 years, his warmth and humor invited children to share a friendship that has echoed through generations. At the forefront of representation, Emilio proudly laid claim to the ‘record for the longest-running role for a Mexican-American in a TV series.’ We are so grateful he shared his talents with us and with the world.”
“We’re devastated to hear about the loss of the brilliant Emilio Delgado,” tweeted the California Shakespeare Theater (also known as Cal Shakes), where Delgado appeared several years ago in the world premiere production of Octavio Solis’ Quixote Nuevo, a contemporary retelling of the Cervantes’ classic Don Quixote. “It was a true honor to have him grace our stage in Quixote Nuevo in 2018.”
Born in Calexico, California, and spending much of his childhood with his grandparents in Mexicali, Mexico, Delgado began acting in his high school productions and local theater, and in 1968 began his professional TV career with a role on the Los Angeles-based Mexican-American soap opera Cancion de la Raza.
Delgado joined the cast of PBS’ Sesame Street in 1971 as Luis, the affable neighborhood handyman and aspiring writer. The actor’s hiring came several seasons into the show’s run when producers moved to increase the series’ representation of the Puerto Rican and Mexican communities. Also joining the cast then was Raul Julia, who played Luis’ fix-it shop partner Rafael. (Julia left the series after one season.)
Among Luis’ major storylines was his romance with the character Maria, played by Sonia Manzano, and their eventual marriage.
During his more than 40 years on Sesame Street, Delgado, who as a singer performed at the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall, worked steadily outside of the show. He appeared through the decades on such series as Cannon, Police Story, Hawaii Five-O, Person of Interest, House of Cards and The Get Down, among many others. Earlier in his career he was the artistic director of the Barrio Theatre of East L.A.
Caroll Spinney Dies: Actor Who Portrayed Sesame Street’s Big Bird And Oscar The Grouch Was 85
Delgado and wife Carole served on the board of directors at New York City’s Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice, an LGBTQIA safe-space, community activist center, and educational organization. On the Rustin Center website, Delgado is praised for his longtime advocacy of Chicano rights and social and racial justice.
According to the Rustin Center, Delgado had been honored with the Impact Award from the National Hispanic Media Coalition, among numerous other accolades.
Additional information on survivors was not immediately available.
Emilio Delgaudo. I had no idea you were so sick. Seeing you a few months ago I told you how cool you looked. And you did. I never thought for a moment you were sick. So sorry for your loved ones. So glad I was able to experience your talent and warm smile.
— Frank Oz (@TheFrankOzJam) March 11, 2022
We're devastated to hear about the loss of the brilliant Emilio Delgado. It was a true honor to have him grace our stage in Quixote Nuevo in 2018. Sending love to all his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/zTCofFmwQF
— calshakes (@calshakes) March 11, 2022
Must Read Stories
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.