Family Guy voice actor Mike Henry will no longer be providing the voice of Cleveland. The actor made the announcement on social media this afternoon. Henry is white and Cleveland is an African American character on the long-running animated series. Henry has voiced the fan-favorite character on the show since the beginning, going all the way back to 1999. In addition to Cleveland, he also voices Cleveland Brown, Jr. and Consuela, the Latina maid. He has not confirmed, but the voice actor will more than likely step down from those roles too. You can read Henry's statement below.
"It's been an honor to play Cleveland on Family Guy for 20 years. I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color. Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role."
Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell, who are white actresses, have also agreed earlier this week to stop voicing characters who are biracial. Bell, who plays Molly Tillerman on Apple TV+'s animated series Central Park, revealed on social media that she would be stepping down from the role. She states, "This is a time to acknowledge our acts of complicity. Casting a mixed race character with a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race and Black American experience."
Jenny Slate played Missy, who has a white mother and black father on Netflix's animated series Big Mouth. Slate said she was able to justify the role at first, but later regretted the decision. She says, "But Missy is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people... In my playing Missy, I was engaging in an act of erasure of Black people." Slate will appear as the character in season 4, which is already complete, while Kristen Bell will continue to be in season 1 of Central Park, which is also complete.
Critics have taken notice of actors and actresses taking on biracial roles. Hank Azaria and The Simpsons came under fire for years over the voice of Apu, which Azaria recently stepped down from. As it turns out, he was ahead of the curve. "We all made the decision together," Azaria said. "We all agreed on it. We all feel like it's the right thing and good about it." He is unsure of how the show will move on with the Apu character.
For now, people on social media are making their own decisions as to what this means moving forward. For some, it's a slippery slope. One person asks if Seth MacFarlane will step down from voicing a 2-year old baby and a dog, which is a bit extreme, but that's one opinion that is gathering some momentum after briefly looking at the comments to Mike Henry's original post. You can check out the Cleveland announcement above, thanks to Mike Henry's Twitter account.