After Blue indices Skidooo in television history After six seasons aired from 1996 to 2006, an entire generation has grown up without the excitement of the mail and the satisfaction of finding clues.
But last month the series returned to Nickelodeon as Blue’s Clues & you with a new host, Joshua Dela Cruz, 29.
The Broadway veteran of New Milford, New Jersey was handpicked from over 3,000 prospects, including WWE wrestler John Cena. but original Blue indices Host Steve Burns believed Dela Cruz was destined to don the striped shirt for the next generation.
The choice of the Filipino American in the title role was seen as a major breakthrough for diversity in children’s television, with Dela Cruz being the first Asian American host of the iconic show.
“I never thought in a million years that such a thing would happen,” he said in our telephone interview. “I used to watch the show with my little sister and never thought I would be on TV. It was a truly humbling experience.
Born in Dubai, Dela Cruz was introduced to acting by his older sister when he was in eighth grade – and after training at the Music Theater Conservatory of the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ, he continued to perform on Broadway in The king and me and Aladdin.
While he loved working in the theater, he began to crave a project that could reach a wider audience. “The problem with musical theater is that it’s really expensive to see a show and bring a family to see a show, forget that,” he says. “I wanted to do something where I could use the gifts and skills I had acquired along the way to help people. And I didn’t know what it was.
When his agent told him about Blue indices, he began to recall the show with his Aladdin cast mates and realized that maybe this was the next step. “This is what I was looking for,” says Dela Cruz.
But he felt the weight of responsibility. “These are such big shoes to fill in because they are so important in people’s lives and how they grew up that I was definitely hesitant and anxious to do a good enough job,” he admits. .
Everything changed during one of the first working sessions. Steve Burns pulled me aside and said, ‘We threw you out for you. We love everything you do, everything you bring to the table, so don’t feel pressured to copy or duplicate anything that I or Donovan Patton have done in the past. It’s your home now.
With that vote of confidence from the original host, Dela Cruz sank into the role and forged her own path.
Having worked on stage all his life, the audience’s late response called for a little patience. Even after the first episode of Blue’s Clues & you aired on November 11, it took a while for the ratings to arrive and know he was doing well. But then the most impactful comments started to arrive.
“I started getting tagged in videos and friends started sending me pictures of their kids watching the show,” he describes. “They are so immersed in it – they play and scream and laugh. It has been such a rewarding experience for me in every way. And I couldn’t be happier.
But there was another level of reaction coming from communities that rarely see themselves on screen, especially on children’s television. “I had friends texting me saying, ‘My kid is pointing at the screen and saying,’ He looks like me! “”
And that’s what makes his role so revolutionary. At least half of all TV, movie and streaming stories “do not feature an Asian or Asian American speaking or named on screen,” according to a study by the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. So the fact that a show aimed at preschoolers can be anchored by Dela Cruz is simply historic.
Dela Cruz himself also hasn’t seen Asian Americans on TV growing up. “There were a handful of people who missed my generation,” he says, referring to The Wiggles‘Jeff Fatts and Sesame StreetIt’s Alan Muraoka. “But I’ve never seen someone like me grow up on TV. It certainly plays a part in why I may never have even seen myself on TV – or even in the mainstream media. “
One of his earliest memories of seeing an Asian American artist was when Dante Bosco played Rufio in the 1991s. To hang up. “He was like a rare butterfly,” says Dela Cruz. But this lack of inclusion is exactly why he never considered a career beyond the stage, where he at least saw Asian Americans on specifically Asian shows like Miss Saigon and The king and me.
Inclusion at its best
Often times, the pressure for diversity leads to a checklist casting – making sure every ethical group is covered, like a United Colors of Benetton ad. While this leads to diversity on TV, it can also seem forced. “I hope that we will continue to evolve and grow as a society and that the media will continue to reflect everyday life,” says Dela Cruz, adding that ticking the boxes could be a necessary tool to get there.
What makes its role in Blue indices what is even more unique is that they did not have ethnicity in mind. “Being chosen in this role without having to be specifically Filipino or Asian is so important because it is inclusion at its best,” said Dela Cruz. “It’s not like we’re hiring you because we need an Asian. We’re hiring you because we love you and you’re Asian, which we’re going to celebrate.
As proof of a world that is starting to change, he highlighted the role of Filipino American Jacob Batalon in 2017 Spider-Man: Homecoming and the general acceptance of the years 2018 Crazy Rich Asians and this year The farewell.
“The farewell transcends an Asian American story where it’s all about family and people, ”he says, looking at her. “It was very specifically Chinese, but I laughed because I could understand and my wife [actress Amanda Dela Cruz who recently starred in off-Broadway’s Jersey Boys], who is Caucasian, also laughed because she could relate to times in her life.
To add to the progressive nature of her role on the children’s show, her character is introduced as a “cousin” to the two previous Caucasian hosts, Burns and Patton.
“It’s such a big change for our show and for America because I watch my family and everyone is Modern family diverse, ”he says. “We’re not just talking about the people you work with, but the people you live with. I applaud our creators and Nickelodeon for adding a layer of diversity. We don’t explain it. It wasn’t a necessity, that’s right.
The advent of other ways of consuming media – via web series, social media, and streaming – has also opened new doors. “Diversity and inclusion are accelerated today because there are so many ways to look at them,” he adds. “People are hungry for inclusion and they can find places to see it. If we continue to create great content and challenge ourselves to create not only diverse material but great material, I think that will definitely start to change and certainly evolve. “
And as for those kids, who like him still don’t see themselves on the shows they love – or even in other areas they hope to pursue, Dela Cruz encourages them to think big. After all, it worked for him.
“If you love something and you work hard and are kind, when that opportunity and your preparation meet, there is no reason you can’t be that person to open the door for everyone,” said the actor. “Even if you don’t see yourself represented, it doesn’t mean anything because no one has seen themselves represented on the moon and then all of a sudden we were there.”