'Sesame Street's' Sonia Manzano on HBO Move: Show "Is Still Mirroring the Society That We Live in"

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Sonia Manzano on 'CBS This Morning'

The actress, who's retiring after 44 years of playing Maria, says the show's new channel is a sign of the times.

Sesame Street's Sonia Manzano is leaving the long-running children's series after 44 years of playing Maria. But the actress seems at peace with the show's move to HBO.

"Sesame Street has always reflected the times it exists in," said Manzano on Tuesday's CBS This Morning. "It came out of the '60s and the civil-rights movement. And it was a very idealistic show. I think its move to HBO reflects that it is still mirroring the society that we live in. So if I'm going to criticize anything, and I'm not, I would criticize the times that we live in and not the show."

Earlier this month, it was announced that HBO is partnering with Sesame Street to offer the next five seasons of the children's show on the premium network's platforms, with new episodes set to air on HBO in the fall. PBS will air the new episodes nine months later. The move, which boosts HBO's streaming service's children's programming, as Netflix and Amazon have bolstered their offerings recently, also gives Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit that produces the show, a lifeline. The organization has operated at a loss in recent years, The Hollywood Reporter revealed last week. PBS reportedly pays a license fee that covers roughly 10 percent of the show's $40 million production cost. DVD sales were once responsible for much of the show's revenue, but those have dropped in recent years with the growth of video-streaming services.

Manzano, who won 15 Emmys during her time on Sesame Street, announced earlier this summer that she wouldn't appear on the children's show's next season. Manzano first took on the role of Maria in 1971 when she was just 21, becoming one of the first Latina women on television.

The actress reflected on her career on the CBS morning show, which she stopped by to promote her new memoir, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx. The actress said that she also has a children's picture book set to be released in September and plans to do more writing, along with continuing to "try and help kids in whatever arena is afforded to me."

After the show aired a minutelong intro of her Sesame Street highlights, Manzano said, "Thank you for flashing my life before my eyes and everyone else's eyes this morning. There are moments in those clips that I don't even remember shooting."

She does remember her first time working opposite a Muppet, recalling an incident with the Frank Oz-controlled Grover, in which she kept looking down at Oz instead of at Grover.

"He said, in Grover's voice, 'Don't look at that man down there,' " said Manzano.

Manzano also shared that her favorite Muppet is Oscar the Grouch.

She explained, "I think he's very nuanced, and when I'm talking to him, I can't tell if he's 8 years old or 48 years old."

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