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In 2015, Sonia Manzano retired from her role as Maria on Sesame Street after decades playing this iconic role. Her book, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx, tells the story of her traumatic and challenging childhood. But what many viewers didn’t realize was how her life on Sesame Street mirrored her real life. Sonia talks about these parallel lives and her mission to comfort kids through TV. She also discusses the lack of true Latino characters on television—and the revelation of finding a show that really looked like home. Plus, she reveals her favorite character on Sesame Street.

Featured image via Sesame Workshop