Producers of “The Simpsons” announced Friday night that the long-running animated comedy “will no longer have white actors portraying non-white characters,” while a cast member of “Family Guy” said it was no longer. would play Cleveland Brown, a black character.
The consecutive announcements came just two days after actresses Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell said they would no longer air biracial cartoon characters, and as Hollywood acknowledges representation issues amid nationwide protests of systemic racism.
In recent years, “The Simpsons” has come under fire for the fact that Hank Azaria, a white actor, voiced Apu, an American Indian character condemned by viewers who believe he is a racist stereotype. Azaria said earlier this year that she would no longer play the role.
In their announcement, the producers of the Emmy-winning show did not address specific changes. It was unclear whether Apu would be removed from the show or whether other black characters voiced by white actors, such as Homer Simpson’s co-worker Carl (also voiced by Azaria), would be recast.
“Family Guy” actor Mike Henry, who is white, tweeted earlier Friday that he is “giving up the role” of Cleveland, one of Peter Griffin’s drinking buddies.
“It’s been an honor playing Cleveland in Family Guy for 20 years,” said Henry, who is also a writer and producer on the series. “I love this character, but people of color should play characters of color.”
Henry has voiced Cleveland, one of the few recurring black characters in “Family Guy,” since the show debuted on the Fox network in 1999. He also played the character in “The Cleveland Show,” a spin-off that ran from 2009 to 2013 on Fox.
“Family Guy” has regularly criticized stories, jokes, and characterizations that viewers found racist, misogynistic, and homophobic. “The Cleveland Show” also received criticism. NPR critic David Bianculli once compared the series to the racist radio show “Amos ‘n’ Andy”, for example.
In separate statements earlier this week, Slate and Bell said they felt white privilege had allowed them to accept the roles of biracial characters.
Slate, who plays Missy in the Netflix series “Big Mouth,” said on Instagram early Wednesday morning that she would step out of the role to make room for a black actor.
Bell, who plays Molly on the Apple TV Plus series “Central Park,” said in a tweet Wednesday night that playing the character showed “a lack of awareness of my widespread privilege.”
“Launching a mixed-race character with a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race and the African-American experience,” added Bell.
In a related development, Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, the co-creators of the NBC comedy “30 Rock,” confirmed earlier this week that episodes of the satirical series featuring characters in blackface would be removed from the services of syndication and transmission.