Voice actor Mike Henry will now longer voice Cleveland Brown on the animated series Family Guy. Henry, who is White, began voicing the Black character in 1999 and also voiced the character on the 2009-2013 spin-off series The Cleveland Show. His decision followed Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell's decisions to leave animated shows where they voiced biracial characters. At the same time, protests against systemic racism have inspired Hollywood to take a second look at its casting practices.
"It's been an honor to play Cleveland on Family Guy for 20 years," Henry tweeted Friday, along with a photo of Cleveland. "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 Herbert, Consuela and several other characters on the Seth MacFarlane-created show. McFarlane, who has cast Henry in several other projects, retweeted Henry's tweet.
Henry's decision came while other voice actors have decided they can no longer play characters of a different race. First, Slate left the Netflix series Big Mouth, in which she voiced the biracial character, Missy. Bell followed suit, saying she could no longer voice the biracial character Molly on Apple TV +'s series Central Park. In her statement, Slate said she justified playing the part because Missy's mother is White and Jewish, but she came to believe her casting was an act of "erasure."
"At the start of the show, I reasoned with myself that it was permissible for me to play 'Missy' because her mom is Jewish and white — as am I," Slate wrote on Instagram. "But 'Missy' is also Black and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people. I acknowledge how my original reasoning was flawed, that it existed as an example of white privilege and unjust allowances made within a system of societal white supremacy, and that in me playing 'Missy,' I was engaging in an act of erasure of Black people."
Late Friday, The Simpsons producers announced they will no longer have White actors voicing non-White characters. For decades, the show featured Hank Azaria voicing the Indian character Apu, which even inspired the documentary The Problem With Apu in 2017. Earlier this year, Azaria said he would no longer voice the character. "All we've agreed on is I won't do the voice anymore... We all feel like it's the right thing and good about it," Azaria said at the time.