“Family Guy” has announced its replacement casting for Cleveland Brown.
Arif Zahir will take over the role.
Mike Henry, who is white, has voiced Brown since the Seth MacFarlane-helmed show began in 1999. In June, amidst protests against police brutality towards black Americans following the killing of George Floyd, he announced that he was stepping down from the role. “I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color,” he said.
Henry is not departing the show, as he will continue to voice side characters such as Bruce the Performance Artist and Herbert the Pedophile. He’ll still be Cleveland’s voice in Season 18, which premieres on Sunday, but Zahir will take over the role as Season 19 goes into production.
Zahir is a YouTube star with over 6 million subscribers who has previously done impressions of Cleveland Brown, along with real-world celebrities and politicians.
“I’m eternally grateful to have received this once in a lifetime opportunity,” Zahir told Deadline. “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.”
Henry joins a wave of other white voice artists who have stepped down from voicing characters of color in what’s shaping up to be a large conversation in the animation community, including Jenny Slate on “Big Mouth,” (Ayo Edebiri will take over the role of Missy) and Hank Azaria stepping down from voicing Carl on “The Simpsons” (Alex Désert took over the role).
“Family Guy” has been renewed through Season 20. Season 18 premieres Sunday at 9:30 p.m. on Fox.