Mike Henry, the white actor who voiced the character of Cleveland Brown on the Family Guy animated series, has stepped down from his role, stating that characters of color should be voiced by people of color.
Mike was a cast member of Family Guy for 20 years since the beginning of the show in 1999. Mike voiced Cleveland since 1999 and also Cleveland’s son, Rallo, on the spin-off “The Cleveland Show” from 2009-2013, throughout four seasons.
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Mike made this announcement on last Friday, stating that although he loves the character, people of color should be given the opportunity to voice such characters.
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
Along with his announcement, The Simpsons also confirmed that in the future, white actors are not voicing any non-white characters in the show, as a response to the criticism it faced due to having white actor Hank Azaria as the voice of the Indian shopkeeper Apu. White actor Harry Shearer has also voiced several Black characters on the show, such as Dr. Hibbert. However, reports from Variety states that Kevin Michael Richardson, a Black actor, has voiced many Black characters on The Simpsons.
Not only Mike Henry and Hank Azaria, but many other white voice actors too are stepping down from their roles. Jenny Slate, the actress who voiced Missy, a biracial character, on Big Mouth, will no longer play the role. She stated that she was indirectly engaging in an act of erasing Black people by playing the character. Kristen Bell, who was set to play a multiracial character in Central Park, an upcoming Apple TV+ comedy series, has also withdrawn from her role, stating that: “playing the character shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege”.
Spokespersons from both the shows have confirmed that they are to recast the roles.