Earlier this year, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter protests, there was a change going on in entertainment. Old episodes of shows depicting blackface were disappearing off streaming services, and white voice actors who were voicing people of color were stepping down from their roles (some of whom had been doing so for 30 years). Even films like Gone with the Wind and Blazing Saddles were being taken down in the midst of this.
As for the voice over roles made famous by white actors being at the helm, two of the more famous changes have been formally announced. The character of Cleveland Brown on Family Guy and Carl on The Simpsons have found their replacements.
For Cleveland Brown, he will now be played by YouTuber and voice actor Arif Zahir. This is a change that will not be taking place until 2021, and originally voice actor Mike Henry will still be playing the character as of this Sunday’s season premiere.
“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.”
“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,” Henry added. “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.”
For The Simpsons, actor and voice actor Alex Désert will be stepping in to play Carl. He will be taking over the role from Hank Azaria, who also famously came under fire for his portrayal of Apu. Apu, however, is not said to be recast at this point. But hey, anything can happen.
Again, this move is not totally surprising. And we are looking forward to seeing what the new actors can do with it. A fresh take is never necessarily a bad thing!