Kansan brings new Sesame Street character to life, promotes autism awareness
New characters on Sesame Street are making quite a splash - and a Kansas man is bringing one of them to life.
Julia's family debuted this week, in conjunction with April's Autism Awareness Month. Julia is a little girl with autism who arrived on Sesame Street four years ago.
The puppeteer behind her brother Samuel is University of Kansas and Lawrence Free State alum Spencer Lott.
"It's a dream come true," Lott told 13 NEWS by telephone from New York City, where he now lives. "I grew up a kid in Kansas watching Sesame Street, and to be a small part of that legacy is exciting."
Lott has worked on Sesame Street before, assisting with characters, but this is the first time he's using his own voice to create one all his own.
"It's a version of me. You try and find a voice that fits with the look of the character. The cast of Sesame Street is a choir and everyone has their own range and notes," he explained. "That's part of the illusion, part of the fun, part of the magic - how do you get this piece of foam covered in fur to emote?"
Lott says the chance to bring Samuel to life also is gratifying because of what it means to people living with autism and their families. Lott is involved with Trusty Sidekick Theater Company and the Lincoln Center Children's Initiative, which developed shows specifically for children with sensory disorders.
Lott said the experience gave him a unique lens through which to present Samuel.
"What's been amazing and overwhelming is the response just in a day since they announced Sam of friends, and adults, and strangers saying this is incredible. This is representation of my relationship with my siblings," he said. "They're so excited for a new generation of kids who will get to grow up with this kind of representation. It's a dream - it's a huge responsibility."
Lott says he is fortunate to have the opportunity to promote understanding for children on the autism spectrum and their families.
"I want to give them a voice. I want to give these siblings a voice and say you're not alone. There's joys, there's challenges, there's opportunity in your family, just like any family," he said.
Sesame Workshop developed free, bilingual resources for families about autism. You can find those at