Which original Sesame Street cast members are still alive in 2022?

Bruno Cooke December 5, 2022
Which original Sesame Street cast members are still alive in 2022?
Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Following the death, at the age of 90, of Bob McGrath (aka Bob Johnson), it’s only natural to wonder how many of Sesame Street’s original cast members are still alive, and what they’re up to now, in 2022.

Without going into huge amounts of detail, it’s hard to answer this question in a way that will appeal to all sensibilities.

That’s because some of the original cast members, as in those who were in the Sesame Street test pilots, were only in those test pilots. 

In other words, they’re not the actors people will likely associate with their respective characters. But it’s still worth looking into, as the last few years have taken their toll on the original cast of Sesame Street.

Photo by ZACH HYMAN/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Which actors who played human characters in season 1 of Sesame Street are still alive?

The human characters in the first season of Sesame Street were Gordon, Susan, Mr Hooper, Bob, Jennie, Buddy and Jim.

The actor who played Gordon Robinson in the test pilots of Sesame Street was Garrett Saunders, but Matt Robinson took over for seasons 1 through 3; Hal Miller played the part for seasons 4 and 5; and Roscoe Orman took the reins from there.

Unfortunately, time hasn’t been kind to all of those who played Gordon. Garrett Saunders died in 1984 (at about 55 years old); and Matt Robinson passed away in 2002 (age 65); Hal Miller died at 82, in 2017. 

Which leaves Roscoe Orman, who is still alive. He’s 78 years old, having been born in 1944. 

What about the others?

The other actors who played human characters in the first season of Sesame Street are easier to write about, as the show’s producers kept them on board permanently.

Loretta Long, who played Susan Robinson – the character’s husband is Gordon Robinson – from 1969, is still alive. She’s 84. A car hit her in 2010, causing head injuries, but she made a full recovery

Will Lee played Mr Hooper. He died several years ago, in 1982, of a heart attack. Bob McGrath, as we know, died this year. 

Jada Rowland played Jennie. She is still alive. She’s 79 years old, and quit acting many years ago in order to “fulfill a lifelong desire to be a professional artist and writer.” Read more about her biography via her website here.

And finally, Brandon Maggart and James Catusi played Buddy and Jim respectively. Maggart is currently 88 years old, while Catusi passed away in 2009, at the age of 70.

Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

So at least four of the original Sesame Street cast members are still alive – are there more?

Undoubtedly. Of the actors who played human characters in the original Sesame Street episodes, Loretta Long, Jada Rowland, and Brandon Maggart appear to be the three surviving cast members.

Roscoe Orman is also still alive, although he didn’t actually join until a bit later.

But the entire cast list of even the first year of Sesame Street’s output includes several other actors besides those who played human characters.

Caroll Spinney played Big Bird from 1969 but died in 2019 at the age of 85; Frank Oz was Bert until 2041; Jim Henson died in 1990 at the age of 53; Jim Thurman played Teeny Little Superguy in 89 episodes from 1969 to 2004, and died in 2007; and there are several others who were in as few as one episode in 1969, or as many as 73 between then and this century.

Holly Robinson Peete is among those paying tribute to Bob McGrath following his death

Robinson Peete is the daughter of Matt Robinson, the late actor who was among the original cast members of Sesame Street. She was also in the show. 

“I first met Bob McGrath in 1969 when my father and him starred together on #SesameStreet,” The Hollywood Reporter quotes her as writing on social media. She also tweeted a tribute.

“He was the guy you saw on TV. The nicest, sweetest, kindest man. The first time my brother and I got to be on Sesame Street we had this scene with him. Rest in peace, Bob McGrath. You were so loved all over the world.”

Meanwhile, publicist and public relations executive Danny Deraney tweeted that McGrath was “vital in not only our education, but our earliest cognitive memories.”

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Bruno Cooke has been a freelance journalist since 2019, primarily with GRV Media. He was an early contributor to The Focus, and has written for HITC, Groundviews and the Sheffield University newspaper – he earned his MA in Global Journalism there in 2021. He’s the Spoken Word Poetry Editor for The Friday Poem, and self-published his debut novel Reveries in 2019, which his mum called both a “fine read” and “excellent Christmas present”. Bruno has lived in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and likes, among other things: bicycle touring, black and white Japanese films, pub quizzes, fermentation and baklava. In 2023, Bruno will set off with his partner on a round-the-world cycle.