In a week of shows announcing that white actors would no longer voice Black characters, The Simpsons has made its own casting change.
“Moving forward, The Simpsons will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters,” the producers for Fox’s long-running, animated tent pole said in a statement.
The move is the latest in an awakening for the TV industry, taking place in the aftermath of nationwide protests in which people are demanding racial justice and equality. This week alone, Kristen Bell from Central Park and Jenny Slate from Big Mouth said, within hours of each other, that they would no longer voice Black characters. Slate said she regretted her part in “the erasure of Black people.”
Read more: Tina Fey apologises for 30 Rock blackface
The makers of live-action shows, such as 30 Rock, Scrubs, Community and Parks and Recreation, yanked episodes of those series that included blackface. Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel apologised for having worn blackface himself in the now defunct The Man Show.
On The Simpsons, white actor Hank Azaria vowed to stop playing Indian character Apu in February, after having played the role for more than 30 years. That followed the release of a 2017 documentary, The Problem With Apu, and widespread criticism that Apu perpetuated stereotypes. But at the time, characters of color being played by white actors remained. For instance, Simpsons staple Harry Shearer provides the voice of the Bill Cosby-esque Dr. Julius Hibbert, who is Black.
Today’s new policy for The Simpsons came within an hour of Family Guy star Mike Henry, the white actor who voices Black character Cleveland Brown, saying he would no longer do so. Cleveland, a friend of the show’s main character Peter Griffin, had his own spinoff, The Cleveland Show, from 2009 to 2013.
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. pic.twitter.com/FmKasWITKT
— Mike Henry (@mikehenrybro) June 26, 2020
The Simpsons was called out for taking so long to make its announcement by people including Hari Kondabolu, who made the Apu documentary.
Re: The Simpsons using People of Color to voice minority characters. All it took was 30 years, a documentary, more relevant shows doing it first & a conversation about racism spurred by police brutality & murder.
Going off social media now until next wave of death threats pass.
— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) June 26, 2020
Top Chef star Padma Lakshmi commented, “Better late than never?”