A slew of US animated series, including long-running hits The Simpsons and Family Guy, are to recast the voice actors of characters of colour with people of colour.
A short statement from Fox Entertainment revealed that “moving forward, The Simpsons will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters.”
The animation, which has aired on Fox for 31 years and is the longest-running US scripted primetime TV series, is expected to recast the voices of long-standing characters such as Dr Hibbert, currently played by Harry Shearer, and both Carl Carlson and police officer Lou, who are voiced by Hank Azaria. Both are white voice actors.
Earlier this year, Azaria stepped down as the voice talent of Indian character Apu after three decades in the role.
White voice actor Mike Henry, who has portrayed black character Cleveland Brown on stablemate Fox series Family Guy for two decades, has also announced his intention to step down from the role.
He wrote on Twitter: “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.”
The decisions come amid the growing calls for greater representation for people of colour both in front of and behind the camera and the global traction for the Black Lives Matter movement.
‘An act of erasure’
Nick Kroll, one of the co-creators of Netflix animation Big Mouth, also took to Twitter last week with a promise to recast the biracial character Missy, currently portrayed by Jenny Slate, with a black actor.
A joint statement from Kroll and fellow co-creators Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett said: “After thoughtful discussion with us and our black collaborators, Jenny Slate has decided, and we wholeheartedly agree, that Missy on Big Mouth should be voiced by a black actor. We sincerely apologize for and regret our original decision to cast a white actor to voice a biracial character.”
Slate later posted a message about the decision on Instagram in which she said taking on the role was “an act of erasure of black people” and explained: “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.”
Getting representation right
Soon after, a joint statement from Josh Gad and Kristen Bell, the co-creator and star of Apple TV+ animated comedy Central Park revealed that white actor Bell would no longer be voicing the biracial character of Molly on the show.
“After reflection, Kristen, along with the entire creative team, recognizes 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 of the nuance and experiences of the character as we’ve drawn her. Kristen will continue to be a part of the show in a new role, but we will find a new actress to lend her voice to Molly.”