As the entertainment industry deals with a reckoning in the wake of new attention to diversity and hiring practices for various roles, especially in the field of animation. The latest example of this came Friday when word broke that Family Guy will recast the role of Cleveland Brown and The Simpsons would no longer have white voice actors voicing characters of color.
The two pieces joined a string of announcements about white voice actors stepping away from roles they’d voiced that were non-white, including Jenny Slate’s Missy on the Netflix animated show Big Mouth and Kristen Bell’s Molly, a bi-racial character, getting a new voice actor on Central Park. On Friday, actor Mike Henry announced on Twitter he will no longer voice Cleveland Brown, a Black character on Family Guy.
It’s been an honor to play Cleveland on Family Guy for 20 years. I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color. Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role. pic.twitter.com/FmKasWITKT
— Mike Henry (@mikehenrybro) June 26, 2020
“It’s been an honor to play Cleveland on Family Guy for 20 years,” tweeted Henry, who has voiced the character since the show started in 1999. “I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color. Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role.”
Henry also voiced Brown in the spinoff The Cleveland Show, which ran from 2009 to 2013. But the note came as word broke via Variety that The Simpsons would also recast any characters of color who were previously voiced by white actors. That news came after months of stories and controversy about Hank Azaria’s voicing of Apu, a role he stepped away from earlier in 2020 and later publicly apologized for.
The producers behind the show issued a statement Friday saying that from now on, its characters of color will be voiced by actors of color only.
“Moving forward, ‘The Simpsons’ will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters,” the statement read.
As Variety noted, the show added voice actor Kevin Michael Richardson as a full-time cast member in recent seasons to voice the show’s various Black characters.