Mike Henry, White Actor Who Voiced Cleveland On Family Guy, Steps Down
Mike Henry, the actor who voices Cleveland Brown on Family Guy has stepped down from the role, citing ‘persons of colour should play characters of colour’.
Since then, Kristen Bell has stepped down from Central Park, and the team behind The Simpsons has announced that white actors will no longer portray non-white characters.
Mike Henry has voiced the African-American character since Family Guy’s release in 1999. He also voiced the character and his son, Rallo Tubbs, on spin-off The Cleveland Show, which ran for four years on Fox.
The voice actor announced he was stepping down from the role on social media yesterday, June 26. There have been no other reactions yet from the show’s producers or cast members.
‘It’s been an honour to play Cleveland on Family Guy for 20 years,’ Henry shared on Twitter. ‘I love this character, but persons of colour should play characters of colour. Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role.
Henry’s decision comes amid worldwide Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, with a range of animated voice actors speaking up in an effort to prevent further contributing to the erasure of Black people in the television industry.
One such actor is Jenny Slate, who has voiced Missy since Big Mouth premiered on Netflix in 2017. In a statement released earlier this week, she said that while she initially ‘reasoned with [her]self’ it was permissible for her to voice the role because her mum is Jewish and White, as is she, she came to realise this was not the case.
‘But ‘Missy’ is also Black,’ the actor told her Instagram followers, ‘and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people.’ She added: ‘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.’
Kristen Bell also announced on Wednesday that she would not voice the character of Molly in the upcoming Apple TV+ animated series Central Park, adding that the role will be recast.
‘Casting a mixed race character with a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race and Black American experience,’ Bell said in a statement shared on Instagram.
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.
While these are certainly all significant steps to improve diversity within the television industry, it’s clear a lot more needs to be done to achieve proper representation – not only in the world of animation but in the entertainment industry as a whole.
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