The 54-year-old voice actor, who is a white man, has voiced the character since the series’ debut in 1999.
Henry took to Twitter to announce that he will stop playing the show’s main Black character because “persons of colour should play characters of colour.”
“It’s been an honour to play Cleveland on Family Guy for 20 years. I love this character, but persons of colour should play characters of colour. Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role,” Henry wrote.
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. pic.twitter.com/FmKasWITKT
— Mike Henry (@mikehenrybro) June 26, 2020
Henry had also voiced the Latin maid named Consuela on the Family Guy series.
His decision comes after voice actors Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell — who are white — pulled out of their roles to recast their biracial characters with someone of colour. Slate played the mixed-raced Missy on Netflix’s Big Mouth and Bell voiced Molly on Apple TV Plus’s Central Park.
Slate announced the news last Wednesday, saying: “I have come to the decision today that I can no longer play the character of ‘Missy’ on the animated TV show Big Mouth.”
“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,” Slate continued. “But ‘Missy’ is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people.
“I acknowledge how my original reasoning was flawed, that it existed as an example of white privilege and unjust allowances made within a system of societal white supremacy, and that in me playing ‘Missy,’ I was engaging in an act of erasure of Black people.
“Ending my portrayal of ‘Missy’ is one step in a lifelong process of uncovering the racism in my actions.”
Slate said that as she looks back “on the nature and emergence of my own voice in comedy, I know that I have made mistakes along the way.”
“I can’t change the past, but I can take accountability for my choices. I will continue to engage in meaningful anti-racist action, to be thoughtful about the messages in my work, to be curious and open to feedback and to do my best to take responsibility for the ways that I am a part of the problem,” she wrote.
“Most importantly, though, to anyone that I’ve hurt: I am so very sorry. Black voices must be heard. Black Lives Matter.”
Bell said this is “a time to acknowledge our acts of complicity.”
“Here is one of mine. Playing the character of Molly on Central Park shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege. Casting a mixed-race character with a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed-race and Black American experience,” Bell wrote.
“It was wrong, and we, on the Central Park team, are pledging to make it right. I am happy to relinquish the role to someone who can give a much more accurate portrayal and I will commit to learning, growing and doing my part for equality and inclusion.”
—With files from The Associated Press
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