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Sonia Manzano Sesame Street Performance Overview of the Years

Sonia Manzano played the Sesame Street character Maria, one of the longest running characters in the show's history. She was a part of the regular cast for an impressive 43 years.

Sesame Street Critic Grade: B+ 

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Sonia Manzano's Early Acting Career

Sonia Manzano began her acting career at a very early age when you was accepted into the High School of Performing Arts. She went on to study at Carnegie Mellon University, but Manzano wouldn't stay there long. In her Junior year of college she found herself back in her hometown of New York City on the stage of the off-Broadway run of Godspell. However, it wasn't long until Sonia found herself on another famous street. 

How Sonia Manzano Landed the Part as the Sesame Street Character Maria

Sonia Manzano landed the part of Maria on Sesame Street at age 21 way back in 1971 just two years after the show began. She auditioned for the part when she was in Godspell, and needless to say she didn't end up back in Carnegie Mellon University. Instead, Manzano developed the sassy, at times blunt but understanding Maria. It's a character that is reflective of herself and other people from the Bronx that she knew and identified with personally. 

Manzano said in an interview with NPR that she was familiar with Sesame Street before auditioning and was actually a big fan. She had seen the show while attending Carnegie Hall and instantly loved it. She appreciated that unlike other children's shows, Sesame Street was set in New York in an urban environment, just like the neighborhood where she grew up. 

When Sonia Manzano auditioned it wasn't like other auditions she had been on before. She met with John Stone, one of the creators of Sesame Street and had to tell a scary story that was made up. But that wasn't all. The story needed to solve a problem as well. Obviously her story was Sesame Street material because the audition led to being offered the role. 

But that wasn't her only acting gig at the time. For a while Manzano would shoot Sesame Street during the day and hit the stage in Godspell at night. But then she was offered a part in the movie adaptation of Godspell. She had a choice to make because she couldn't do both. Sonia ended up letting her agent decide and the rest is Sesame Street history. 

Maria got many chances to show off her formal acting training while on Sesame Street. For instance,  she got to show off her pantomime skills while mimicking Charlie Chaplin on the show. 

Word on the Street: Here's a fun fact. Sonia Manzano wasn't just an actor on Sesame Street. She also ended up writing or the show.

Sonia Manzano Most Memorable Sesame Street Moments

With 43 seasons to choose from, there are a lot of memorable moments involving Maria on Sesame Street.

One of the moments fans will remember from the XXs is when Maria and Luis got 


Maria's giving birth after the marriage is another moment Sesame Street fans

remember. But what you may not know is Manzano's actual daughter played the role 

of her fictional daughter, Gabriella. 

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