“The Simpsons” will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters on the show, Fox announced on Friday.
“Moving forward, ‘The Simpsons’ will no longer have white actors voice nonwhite characters,” the network said in a brief statement.
The pledge follows the announcement by “Family Guy” star Mike Henry earlier on Friday that he would step away from the Fox sitcom as the longtime voice of the Black character Cleveland Brown.
This is not the first time “The Simpsons” has had to reckon with race in voice casting. Hank Azaria announced back in January that he would stop voicing the Indian American convenience-store proprietor Apu Nahasapeemapetilon after taking heavy criticism, including in a 2017 documentary titled “The Problem With Apu” by comedian Hari Kondabolu.
“My eyes have been opened,” Azaria said in an interview about the criticism at the time. “I think the most important thing is we have to listen to South Asian people, Indian people in this country when they talk about what they feel, how they think about this character, and what their American experience of it [is].”
In his statement on Friday, Henry made a similar acknowledgment that “persons of color should play characters of color.” He had voiced the character for more than two decades, since the show’s debut in 1999. He also voiced a number of other minor “Family Guy” characters, including a Latina maid named Consuela.
Animated TV comedies have faced something a reckoning regarding cross-racial casting across the last few days. Earlier this week both “Big Mouth” star Jenny Slate and “Central Park’s” Kristen Bell announced that they would step away from voicing their characters, both of whom are biracial. Both shows said they would replace the actresses with Black or biracial voice actors.