Great story, another example how the illegal immigration debate is now a big part of our culture.
In 1993, when I was 14, I became a regular on “Sesame Street.” The show usually liked to have a teenager on, so that was me. My character had my same name, Carlo, and eventually I got a job at Mr. Hooper’s store. I had to make a birdseed milkshake for Big Bird, that was my tryout. I ended up appearing on “Sesame Street” for five years. But the whole time, I had a secret: I was an undocumented immigrant. The papers I’d used to get hired were fake.
My family had come from Ecuador when I was seven and my older brother Angelo was nine. We came on a tourist visa, and the moment my parents had gotten it, we knew we were not coming back. They sold all our furniture before we left.
My mother had a sister living legally in the United States, and my parents planned to have her sponsor us for residency. Soon after landing in New York, my parents saw a lawyer. But we were told the process would take four or five years.
Coming to the States was traumatic. In Ecuador, we had lived in a house. Here, we were in a small apartment. We didn’t know any English. But you know, at that age, things change quickly. In six months we were speaking English and running around like normal kids. Most of the time, we blended in. But we knew weren’t supposed to be here, and we lived with a lot of fear.
I started acting when I was 11, almost as a fluke. One day, we went to visit our cousins, and they were on their way to try-outs for a community theater production of “Oliver!” It was through a program put on by the city, to get disadvantaged kids off the street. When we got there, the producers were like, “You should try out, too.” So my brother and I did. Then we all went to lunch. When we got home, we had a phone message that we’d both been cast. I was Oliver.