Family Guy has cast YouTube star Arif Zahir as the new voice of Cleveland Brown. Zahir has gained millions of views on his channel for impersonating Cleveland, along with many others. Mike Henry formerly voiced the fan-favorite character, who even had a short-lived spin-off series. Henry, who is white, stepped down from the role back in June, noting, "I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color." Henry is still the voice in season 18 of Family Guy, while Zahir takes over for season 19, which is currently in production.
Mike Henry will remain a cast member of Fox's Family Guy, providing the voices of Bruce the Performance Artist, Herbert the Pedophile, and many more. Plus, it seems he'll be able to coach Arif Zahir through his new gig as Cleveland Brown. "I welcome Arif to the Family Guy team," Henry said. "Arif's vocal talent is obvious, but his understanding of Cleveland and his respect for the character give me confidence that he is in the right hands." Henry concluded by stating, "I look forward to getting to know Arif and working with him to make sure Cleveland stays every bit as awesome as he has always been."
It seems that the transition to get a new Cleveland Brown voice has been easy for the Family Guy team. Season 18 will premiere this Sunday, September 27th, which will also celebrate the long-running animated show's 350th episode. As for Arif Zahir, he could not be happier to be welcomed to the family for the upcoming season 19. He had this to say.
"Firstly, I'm eternally grateful to have received this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When I heard that Mike Henry was stepping down from the role of Cleveland Brown - my favorite cartoon character of all time - I was shocked and saddened, assuming we'd never see him again. When I learned I would get to take over the role? Overabundant gratitude. To Mike, you created something truly special, and I promise I will do my absolute best to honor your legacy. To Rich Appel, Alec Sulkin and Seth MacFarlane, thank you for this incredible gift. And to the millions of fans who love this show, I promise not to let you down."
As of this writing, Arif Zahir has 6.2 million YouTube subscribers. He does a variety of impressions of famous actors and characters, but some of his Cleveland Brown impersonations have gained him the most views, and even landed him a gig at Family Guy. One of the most popular videos Zahir has is his version of Cleveland covering some rather racy hip songs. With that being said, the majority of his videos all get millions of views. The Wire star Wendell Pierce previously pitched his own voice talents to take over the role of Cleveland.
The Family Guy casting news comes just one day after The Simpsons announced that The Flash actor Alex Désert has taken over the voice of Carl Carlson, who was originally voiced by Hank Azaria. It's not clear if Désert is going to take on the role permanently, or just for season 32, which also kicks off this Sunday. Deadline was one of the first outlets to announce the Family Guy news.