He was 81.
“We are saddened by the news of Emilio’s passing. Emilio was an immense talent who brought so much joy and smiles to his fans. He will be missed by many and we know his legacy will live on. Our thoughts are with his loved ones, including his wife, Carole,” Robert Attermann, CEO of A3 Artists Agency, told CNN in a statement.
The actor died Thursday at his home in New York City. He had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, in 2020, according to a report from TMZ, citing his wife.
Delgado had remained active in theater, starring in “Quixote Nuevo,” a version of “Don Quixote,” before the pandemic struck in early 2020. His extensive stage work included serving as artistic director of the Barrio Theatre Ensemble of East Los Angeles.
Still, he’ll be best remembered for the popular children’s program. Delgado had cited the PBS show’s importance as a cultural touchstone in the way people of color were depicted on TV.
“For the first time on television, they showed Latinos as real human beings,” Delgado told the Houston Chronicle in 2020. “We weren’t dope addicts. We weren’t maids or prostitutes, which were the way we were being shown in television and in film. Here, on ‘Sesame Street,’ there were different people who spoke different languages and ate interesting foods, and they were all Americans.”
“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,” Sesame Workshop said of Delgado in a statement to CNN. “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.”
Beyond “Sesame Street,” Delgado appeared in such series as “Law & Order,” and early in his career in the dramas “Lou Grant” and “Falcon Crest.” He also co-starred in the 1975 TV movie “I Will Fight No More Forever,” a true story about Nez Perce Native American leader Chief Joseph.
Delgado was born in Calexico, Calif., but raised by his grandparents on the other side of the US-Mexican border in Mexicali.