Actor Arif Zahir will take over the role of Cleveland Brown for Season 19 of “Family Guy.” (Photo: Ben Krantz)
There’s a new “Family Guy” voice actor who can say, “My name is Cleveland Brown.”
Black actor Arif Zahir will take over the role of Brown, a Black character who’s Peter Griffin’s friend and neighbor, from Mike Henry, who’s white, for Season 19 next fall.
Fox announced the recasting Friday as the animated series, co-created by Seth MacFarlane and David Zuckerman premieres its 18th season Sunday (Fox, 9:30 EDT/PDT). Henry voices Cleveland in the upcoming season, which has already completed production, and will continue to voice other roles in the series.
Henry revealed in a June tweet that he would be stepping down from the role he’s voiced on “Family Guy” since its premiere and the spin-off “The Cleveland Show” (2009 to 2013) explaining “persons of color should play characters of color.”
Henry is not alone: This year, Hank Azaria abandoned Apu, the Indian immigrant who owns the Kwik-E-Mart on “The Simpsons.” Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell gave up their roles on “Big Mouth” and “Central Park” respectively, saying it’s inappropriate for them to voice biracial cartoon characters.
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Mike Henry voiced the character of Cleveland Brown for several years on the animated series “Family Guy” and “The Cleveland Show.” (Photo: Dan Steinberg/AP)
Zahir said he felt “eternally grateful” for the role in Friday’s announcement.
“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,” the actor’s statement read. “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 extended a welcome for Zahir to the “Family Guy” crew.
“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,” he said in his statement. “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.”
Henry has also voiced Cleveland’s son Cleveland Brown Jr., his Black stepson Rallo Tubbs and a Latina maid named Consuela.
Contributing: Charles Trepany
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