Mike Henry will no longer voice Cleveland on 'Family Guy'
Posted June 27, 2020 2:58 p.m. EDT
CNN — Mike Henry has stepped down from playing the character Cleveland on "Family Guy," the latest in a slew of White actors abdicating roles voicing animated characters of color.
Henry, who also voiced the character on the now-canceled "The Cleveland Show," made the announcement Friday evening on Twitter, writing that it's been an honor to play the character for 20 years.
"I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color," he said. "Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role."
The announcement comes shortly after "The Simpsons," a FOX show like "Family Guy," declared it would no longer have White actors voice non-White characters. That decision came months after Hank Azaria said he would no longer voice the popular "Simpsons" character Apu, which had been criticized as a racist, stereotypical and demeaning portrayal of South Asian people.
But "Family Guy" also has other nonwhite characters voiced by White actors, including Tricia Takanawa, voiced by Alex Borstein, who also voices matriarch Lois Griffin.
Henry is one of many White actors stepping down
All of this is a part of pop culture's recent racial reckoning, as increasingly creators and actors of color demand accountability from Hollywood and the entertainment industry.
This week also saw popular comedian Jenny Slate step down from her role on "Big Mouth" as Missy Foreman-Greenwald, a young mixed-race girl. In an explanation posted to Instagram, Slate wrote, "Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people."
"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. But 'Missy' is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people," she said.
Citing her own "pervasive privilege," Kristen Bell also announced she is leaving her role as a mixed-race character on the Apple TV+ animated series, "Central Park."
Bell and the creative team behind the show recognize "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," they wrote in a statement.
Alison Brie, who voiced Vietnamese character Diane Nguyen on Netflix's "BoJack Horseman" also spoke out on Friday, saying she wishes she hadn't voiced the character.
"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."