Sesame Street Live’s Elmo in Babble.com’s Five-Minute Time Out.Jennifer V. Hughes
Osborn, twenty-four, started her kid’s career in 2005 when she played Bedtime Bear in Care Bears Live: Caring and Sharing Friends. She then went on to portray Spike the Dragon in My Little Pony Live!: The World’s Biggest Tea Party. Now she’s wearing the fuzzy red suit as Elmo in Sesame Street Live‘s Elmo Makes Music, which runs into the summer. Even though the schedule sounds grueling – she visits about fifty cities for each tour – Osborn says she hopes to sign up for another tour when this one ends. Babble caught up with her by phone during the show’s stop in New Orleans. – Jennifer V. Hughes
How totally insane is it to play Elmo? I mean, he’s like Jesus to preschoolers.
[Laughs] Every single show, when I come on there is just this freak-out throughout the entire audience, which is a little bit weird for me. Inside it’s just me and I’m not that great. We have this part where everyone is invited to sing along and to hear a whole arena of people singing back at you – it’s like, “This is what it’s like to be a rock star.” It’s so much fun to be able to do that for a bunch of little kids.
Did you ever imagine that this is what you’d be doing?
No. I don’t think anyone thinks they are going to be doing this kind of thing – everyone has big dreams of moving to New York and being amazing. I always thought of myself as a dancer so I think this is perfect for me. I don’t have to speak or sing – I can just dance.
It must be hard in those costumes.
Oh yeah – it is its own beast. What we do is we learn the show as people in a dance studio and then you add the costume parts slowly. You just add feet, and then the head and then the whole costume, and you have to retrain your body how to move in its new body.
That sounds like a heck of a workout.
Luckily for me, Elmo is a pretty small costume. I played a dragon and a Care Bear which are both basically fat suits, which are huge. You have to learn how to move so that the character is moving too. Even when you are moving inside, it doesn’t mean that the character is doing what you think it’s doing.
In the movie Death To Smoochy, producers calls the guy who wears a fluffy character suit “a foamy – a fabric stuffer.” A star is snared in a payola scandal. There’s excessive drinking, backstabbing and swearing, as well as the involvement of the Irish mob and a female producer / “kiddie host groupie.” It’s just like that, right?
Uh . . . I haven’t seen that movie . . . But we are all real people, and we all have our fair share of drama. There are definitely couplings on tours. The couples change and people have their drama or people meet someone in a city. But our tour is pretty low-key right now.
So no one pulls off the Big Bird head and starts smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey?
[Laughs] No. That doesn’t happen.
What is it like to be in that auditorium full of hundreds of screaming kids who are jacked up on sugar? Were you a little intimidated the first time?
It is a little intimidating. All the characters go into the audience at some point and that can be a little scary. Sometimes I have this image that it’s like being attacked, like out of a horror film. You’re so big in those suits – you don’t want to take any of them down. You think “Okay, if I just shuffle along slowly I’ll be okay.”
Live performance always carries the risk that something can go wrong . . .
Oh yeah, we’ve definitely had Muppets falling. I have face-planted on the stage as a Care Bear.
How exactly do you get in character for a Care Bear?
Actually it can be a challenge. Our director kept saying “We need you to be more sleepy but more energetic in the show.” I was like “Uh, oh – okay.” I loved playing Bedtime Bear because so many people knew him and loved him as a kid. He sort of came with this affection that people had for him. It’s like Elmo. He’s so cute and lovable, it doesn’t matter. You can try to be a tough guy and think he’s annoying, but deep down you really do love him.
What does your family think? Are they saying “Oh, she could have been a doctor or a lawyer, and now she’s a Care Bear?”
No, my family thinks it’s great. I’m so grateful to my parents who said, “If this is what you love, go for it.”
It sounds like a lot of fun. But a little weird too.
You definitely have those moments where you’re walking around in half a Muppet costume and you’re like,”This is my life?”