Brownsville native Bradley Freeman Jr. is bringing Sesame Street Black puppet “Wesley Walker” to life as part of “Coming Together,” Sesame Workshop’s ongoing commitment to racial justice.
The 22 year old, a Veterans Early College High School graduate, remembers being a puppeteer since he was 6 years old. Now residing in San Antonio, he hopes his character, Wes as he calls him, helps families start the conversation on race at home.
Wesley is a 5-year-old boy that just moved to Sesame Street with his dad Elijah. Freeman describes this character as imaginative, fun, hyper and with a lot of feelings.
“Him and his family have a very healthy relationship, so they are able to talk about things,” Freeman said in an interview.
“Through them talking about these things that they feel, they’re able to start the conservation, specifically about race. Which is fantastic, because so many families and the parents need to know, or would love to know, an angle to talk about this with their kids. So I’m honored to be part of the team that is helping families understand how they can start this conversation, so that we can all grow stronger together.”
Freeman said he remembers shopping at Target when he got the email that he got the role. He said before auditioning for the role he had gotten a call from Martin Robinson, a puppeteer who has performed on Sesame Street since 1981, asking him how he was doing. Eventually, producers of the show asked him to audition for these new characters at Sesame Workshop.
Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit behind Sesame Street, a community built on diversity, equity, and inclusion, where creators, educators, partners, and unforgettable characters come together on a mission to help kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder, the official website reads.
“Oh my goodness, words can’t even describe how I felt. I was so excited and ecstatic and nervous and honored and scared. I had every emotion all at once,” Freeman said.
“It was just so exhilarating, it was incredible. I had to call all of my friends and I was like ‘Guys, I did it, I actually did it. I get to have my own character on Sesame Street’ and they all lost their minds, almost more so than I did.”
Freeman said Sesame Street is part of American culture and being part of this initiative is a huge honor for him. He said shows like this one help to get the race conversation started, and as a society, the more we talk about it, the easier it is to find where the problems are and be able to solve them.
“The more we get the conversation going, the easier it is to find out where the problems are, where people are having problems and to solve them. I think the importance of it can’t be understated, that these conversations need to be had in order to these problems to start being resolved,” he said.
“It is just one of those things, Sesame Street is just an institution, it’s a part of American culture and as a puppeteer it’s been a major part of my life. And even for people who are not puppeteers, it’s a major part of a lot of people’s lives. So, to be a part of this institution and to be a part of this incredible initiative has been, and continues to be, a huge honor, a thrill and just, it’s incredible. So, all those feelings I was feeling when I got it, I still feel them today even more so.”
When it comes to Brownsville, Freeman Jr. remembers the art scene being smaller than what it is right now. He said it is exciting to see how the art community in this city is getting bigger and bigger and hopes to be able to visit soon to support the local arts.
“It’s been really inspiring and amazing to see that the fine arts have sort of begun to blossom in Brownsville. People are finally starting to see the value in fine arts, not just in theater, but in music, poetry, there’s a big arts movements that it’s happening in Brownsville and it’s absolutely inspiring,” he said.
“I would love to see that continue, the next time I visit, post pandemic, I would love to be able to see a show, I’d love to be able to go see a poetry slam, I would love to be able to hear some live music downtown. It looks like everything was kind of moving toward that before COVID. And I’m excited to go back and see the Brownsville art scene, because there are so many incredibly, wonderfully, unique and talented people in Brownsville.”
For more information and to see the episodes, visit sesameworkshop.org