‘Family Guy’ is also moving away from having white actors voice nonwhite characters
The Simpsons, the longest running animated television show in history spanning over three decades (31 years to be exact), has endured its fair share of controversy. From its political incorrectness to simply being raunchy by nature, the cast of characters, led by the Simpson family — Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie — have learned from their mishaps and mistakes, and the show has generally evolved with the times. As a result of the Black Lives Matter movement, the show is taking another step toward change with Fox announcing on Friday that there will no longer be white actors voicing non-white characters.
“Moving forward, The Simpsons will no longer have white actors voice nonwhite characters,” the network revealed in a statement, according to Deadline. Earlier in the day, Family Guy star Mike Henry revealed that he would no longer voice the show’s popular Black character Cleveland Brown, a character he’s voiced since 1999.
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,” he tweeted. “I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color. Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role.”
Since the first episode of The Simpsons aired, a number of white actors have voiced nonwhite characters, including Harry Shearer as Dr. Julius Hibbert and Hank Azaria as Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. Back in January, months before the BLM protests started shaking things up in Hollywood, Azaria announced he would be leaving the role as the Indian American convenience store owner. His decision was partially inspired by Hari Kondabolu’s 2017 documentary titled The Problem With Apu.
“All we know there is I won’t be doing the voice anymore, unless there’s some way to transition it or something,” Azaria said, according to /Film. He explained that the decision to leave the role was mutual. “We all agreed on it,” he said. “We all feel like it’s the right thing and good about it.”
“My documentary The Problem with Apu was not made to get rid of a dated cartoon character, but to discuss race, representation & my community (which I love very much),” Kondabolu wrote about the documentary, which interviewed South Asian stars such as Aziz Ansari and Kal Penn about how characters, like Apu, can unintentionally promote racism. “It was also about how you can love something (like the Simpsons) & still be critical about aspects of it (Apu).”
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This is a time to acknowledge our acts of complicity. Here is one of mine. Playing the character of Molly on Central Park shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege. Casting a mixed race character with a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race and Black American experience. It was wrong and we, on the Central Park team, are pledging to make it right. I am happy to relinquish this role to someone who can give a much more accurate portrayal and I will commit to learning, growing and doing my part for equality and inclusion.
Earlier this week Jenny Slate from Big Mouth and Kristen Bell of Central Park also announced they would no longer be voicing their biracial roles, explaining they would like them to replaced with Black or biracial voice actors.