Popular TV show Family Guy bid farewell to one of its voice actors. Mike Henry walked away from playing the character Cleveland on the hit show. Henry’s decision to step down adds to a growing number of White actors giving up roles of voicing animated characters of color.
Henry made the announcement on Twitter writing that it had been an honor for him to play the character for 20 years. He went on to say, “I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color. Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role.”
Henry’s announcement followed “The Simpsons”, another popular animated series on FOX, the decision to no longer hire White actors to voice non-White characters. Their declaration, however, came months after Hank Azaria, the voice of Apu on the show, chose to step down from the role. The character of Apu had long been the center of harsh criticisms for being racist, stereotypical, and a demeaning representation of South Asian people.
While Henry has been lauded for his decision to step down, the cast of “Family Guy” still includes non-White characters voiced by White actors. One such example is the character of Tricia Takanawa, voiced by Alex Borstein, who is also the voice behind Lois Griffin on the show.
Kristen Bell also announced leaving her role as a mixed-race character on the animated series “Central Park”. Bell acknowledged her own “pervasive privilege” and accepted that “the casting of the character of Molly is an opportunity to get representation right – to cast a Black or mixed-race actress and give Molly a voice that resonates with all the nuance and experiences of the character as we’ve drawn her.”
Alison Brie also came forward and regretted voicing a Vietnamese character Diane Nguyen on Netflix’s “BoJack Horseman”. “I now understand that people of color should always voice people of color. We missed a great opportunity to represent the Vietnamese-American community accurately and respectfully, and for that, I am truly sorry,” she wrote. “I applaud all those who stepped away from their voiceover roles in recent days. I have learned a lot from them.”
The string of actors giving up their positions of voicing non-White characters is a part of the entertainment industry’s recent racial reckoning as creators and actors of color raise their voice to demand accountability from Hollywood.