The Sesame Street neighborhood just got a whole lot smaller. Original Sesame Street cast member Bob McGrath has revealed that he and his longtime costars Emilio Delgado (Luis) and Roscoe Orman (Gordon) have been cut from the long-running children’s series. McGrath made the announcement at Florida Supercon, before the show chimed in on the news, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Muppet Cast podcast posted audio from the 84-year-old Sesame Street legend’s appearance, in which he described the few remaining human cast members as “young.”
“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.
Bob has been a cast member on Sesame Street since the show debuted on PBS in 1969. Delgado, 76, made his debut as Luis the handyman in 1971, and while Orman, 72, is the third man to play the Gordon character, he has been in the role for 42 years.
After news of the casting changes broke, a statement was posted on the official Sesame Street Twitter account, assuring fans that the beloved Sesame Street icons will still represent the show at “public events.” The statement also revealed that the change had nothing to do with Sesame Street’s move to HBO last fall.
But according to Newsday, McGrath hinted that HBO was behind the Sesame Street housecleaning.
“I have completed my 45th season this year,” McGrath reportedly said. “And the show has gone under a major turnaround, going from an hour to a half-hour. HBO has gotten involved also. And they let all of the original cast members go.”
PBS Chief Executive Paula Kerger clarified McGrath’s statements at the Television Critics Association press tour, reiterating that the show is independently produced.
“As you know, Sesame Street is produced by Sesame Workshop, which is an independent production company, and the casting decision was made by them,” Kerger said. “We did not know about it beforehand. We found out about it after.”
Newsday also revealed that a Sesame Workshop spokesman has stated that all three ousted cast members will “continue to appear in segments on the show.”
Sesame Street has always re-aired past segments within new episodes, so fans can expect to see Bob, Luis, and Gordon in the upcoming Season 47. Still, the news that no new segments will be filmed by the beloved actors is a big blow to longtime Sesame Street fans, so perhaps it’s no surprise that social media lit up when it was announced that Bob, Gordon, and Luis were fired.
The Sesame Street Twitter page was filled with accusations of age discrimination, with one poster imagining the upcoming “Peabody-winning episode, gently explaining to Big Bird that sometimes actors age out of their roles.”
While many people slammed the show for discrimination against the aging Sesame Street stars, other fans vowed to never watch Sesame Street again.
Sadly, Sesame Street already took a hit last year when Sonia Manzano left the show after 44 years as Maria. Sesame Street was also cut to a half-hour format when it moved to HBO last year. In an interview last fall with the Daily Beast, Manzano said she left Sesame Street because she felt there was “less to go around” for each cast member as the show segued towards fewer human-driven segments.
Sesame Street will now feature only two original cast members. Loretta Long, who plays Gordon’s wife, Susan, and Caroll Spinney, who plays Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, will remain on the show.
Take a look at the video below to see a classic segment from Sesame Street featuring Bob, Gordon, Luis, and Maria.
[Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images]