Question: Am I imagining things, or did I see Sesame Street's Maria on an episode of Law & Order, and Gina on a few episodes of The Sopranos? If so, they've come a long way from fixing toasters and treating animals. — Patricia M., Wheaton, Ill.
Televisionary: That they have, Patricia.
It was indeed Sonia Manzano, who has portrayed Maria on the Street for more than three decades, playing Barbara Benitez in the March 3 L&O episode "Hands Free." And you weren't alone in recognizing her. While shooting that installment, "The sound guy kept calling me Maria and telling me he grew up watching me. It was funny," she told The Detroit News.
As for Alison Bartlett, who portrays Gina, if you saw her on The Sopranos as the girlfriend of Tony B. (Steve Buscemi), then you certainly saw her in a more adult situation than she's ever played on PBS. (One key scene had her in bed with him.) That's not unique for the actress, however; the producers of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit cast the mother of three as a lesbian, and she's also played a rape victim on L&O.
A writer for the Associated Press asked her how Elmo might react to her Sopranos appearance. "He'd probably use his high-pitched voice to say, 'I saw Gina in bed'," she said. "And he'd probably need a good therapy session."