Sonia Manzano, who played Maria on Sesame Street for 44 years before leaving in 2015, makes her animated debut on Monday on the PBS Kids show Alma's Way.
The actress plays Granny Isa in the program, which she created. "It's wonderful!" she enthuses about her first-ever animated role. "I never have to worry about what I'm gonna wear because animated characters never change their clothes. Every hair is in place!"
Manzano explains that the show "is based on critical thinking," noting, "Every episode, Alma gets into some sort of jam or she has a problem and she...decides to 'think it through,' and kind of a bubble appears next to her head. And kids see the thought process. And we're hoping that that will inspire them to understand that everybody has a brain and they could think, too.
The show takes place in the New York City borough of the Bronx -- where Manzano grew up -- something she calls "fabulous."
"I feel like I've gone full circle," she says. "You know, I started out in the Bronx, and now here I am, ending up in the Bronx."
She adds, "Alma's Way takes place in the Bronx in neighborhoods that I lived in, populated with many people that I loved and some who were actually my relatives."
In fact, her character, Granny Isa, was so named to honor Manzano's own mother, Isa.
As for her previous gig, Sesame Street, Manzano explains that she's still thanked for helping generations of kids.
"I do hear it from a lot of people," she tells ABC Audio. "And it's frankly, it's very gratifying to realize that all the work that you've been doing has made some impact and that people were indeed paying attention."