Following the influx of white voice actors departing their roles as Black animated characters, Fox’s Family Guy announced that Mike Henry would no longer voice Cleveland Brown.
Now, the show has announced that it has tapped actor and popular YouTuber Arif Zahir to voice the character beginning with season 19. Season 18 episodes which were already in production before Henry exited, will still feature his voice.
“Firstly, I’m eternally grateful to have received this once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Zahir in a statement. “When I heard that Mike Henry was stepping down from the role of Cleveland Brown — my favorite cartoon character of all time — I was shocked and saddened, assuming we’d never see him again. When I learned I would get to take over the role? Overabundant gratitude. To Mike, you created something truly special and I promise I will do my absolute best to honor your legacy. To Rich Appel, Alec Sulkin and Seth MacFarlane, thank you for this incredible gift. And to the millions of fans who love this show, I promise not to let you down.”
Henry, who will remain on the show in other roles, said, “I welcome Arif to the Family Guy team. Arif’s vocal talent is obvious, but his understanding of Cleveland and his respect for the character give me confidence that he is in the right hands. I look forward to getting to know Arif and working with him to make sure Cleveland stays every bit as awesome as he has always been.”
Back in June, Henry said that Cleveland needed to be voiced by a Black person. He wrote at the time, “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.”
This casting news comes as Kristen Bell vacated the role of a Black character on Apple TV+’s Central Park and was replaced by Emmy Raver-Lampman. Netflix’s Big Mouth also tapped Ayo Edebiri to replace Jenny SLate as the character of Missy.
Photo: Ben Krantz, Fox, Getty