Remembering “Luis” – and Beloved Cast Member Emilio Delgado
Emilio Delgado, best known to generations of children, parents and grandparents as Sesame Street’s beloved Fix-It-Shop owner Luis, and for his appearances on many television series aimed at grown-up audiences, passed away on March 10, 2022 after a long illness.
Known for his warm smile and gently soothing singing voice, Delgado was born in 1940 in Calexico, California, a town on the border between California and Mexico. His family later moved to Glendale, where he spent his teenage years and first explored his passions for music and theater. He earned his Actors Equity card in 1968 working in summer stock and enrolled in CalArts as a theater major. After a few primetime television appearances, a job in New York would change his life forever, not to mention the lives of countless children.
Delgado joined the cast of Sesame Street in the show’s third season and played Luis Rodriguez for 44 years. First introduced alongside Raul Julia’s Raphael as the proprietors of L&R’s Fix-It Shop, Delgado was eventually paired with Sonia Manzano’s Maria when the Sesame Street producers wanted to explore storylines involving love, marriage, and parenthood. Luis and Maria were married in a grand ceremony on the roof of 123 Sesame Street in 1988 and brought little Gabriela into the world the following year. Luis and Maria’s relationship appeared so real on television, that for decades since, when fans saw them out and about with their actual spouses, Emilio Delgado and Sonia Manzano had a lot of explaining to do. In addition to the series, Emilio brought his warmth and charm to two Sesame Street feature films, as well as many live appearances, where audience members of all ages were lucky enough to get an up-close sample of the joy and charisma he shared with his friends and co-workers.
During Sesame Street’s off-season, Emilio took a break from fixing toasters and performing songs alongside monsters, animals, and the beloved Sesame human cast members. and acted in some of television’s most popular primetime series, including Quincy, Hawaii Five-O, Falcon Crest, House of Cards, The Michael J. Fox Show, and three iterations of the Law & Order franchise. Delgado was a recurring cast member of Lou Grant, appearing in 19 episodes as National Editor Rubin Castillo.
Emilio Delgado loved music, cherishing his performances with the band Pink Martini which took him from The Hollywood Bowl to Carnegie Hall and many venues in between. He can be heard on their album Splendor in the Grass.
Delgado returned to the stage in 2018, starring in the title role in Octavio Solis’s reimagining of Don Quixote, Quixote Nuevo. His triumphant run included performances at The California Shakespeare Theater, Boston’s Hartford Stage and Houston’s Alley Theatre. He received some of the best notices of his career for playing an Alzheimer’s disease-plagued retired literature professor who sets off on a quest to find his Dulcinea.
Loved by co-workers, friends and fans, former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made things official when he proclaimed October 15, 2019 “Emilio Delgado Day” in New York City, honoring Delgado as a “trailblazing Mexican-American artist.”
He is survived by his loving wife of more than thirty years, Carole, and his children Lauren and Aram. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Emilio’s memory to United Farmworkers of America, Doctors Without Borders, Heifer International, or healthtree.org.