In recent years, people have be more vocal about the casting of white actors in roles meant for people of color. From Scarlett Johansson in “Ghost in the Shell” to Johnny Depp in “The Lone Ranger,” celebrities are more likely to be held accountable for accepting these roles than ever before. However, as time has moved on, the world of voice acting is now dealing with criticism over these same casting decisions.
Since June 24, numerous white voice actors have announced stepping down from nonwhite roles or creators acknowledging fault in their casting. Below is each example of this occurring as they have happened.
Jenny Slate as Missy Foreman-Greenwald on “Big Mouth”
For four seasons of the popular Netflix series, white actress Jenny Slate played the role of bi-racial teenager Missy Foreman-Greenwald. However, on June 24th, she announced that she would be stepping down from the role. In a statement posted by Slate on Instagram, she stated that she originally stood by her casting due to sharing a Jewish background with Missy. However, she went on to say in the statement that “Missy is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people.”
Kristen Bell as Molly Tillerman on “Central Park”
Already partially through its’ first season, the Apple TV+ series “Central Park” decided to recast white actress Kristen Bell who was originally cast as the bi-racial character Molly Tillerman. In a panel, series creator Loren Bouchard originally defended the casting as Bell stating, that she “needed to be Molly, she was always going to honor the character. We couldn’t make Molly white or Kristen mixed race, so we had to go forward. Bouchard would later apologize on June 24 in a tweet accompanied by a statement saying that he was sorry for his “non-explanation.” At the moment, it hasn’t been revealed what character Bell will now be playing.
“BoJack Horseman” creator acknowledges mistake in casting for Diane Nguyen
Though the Netflix series “BoJack Horseman” has already ended, the series creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg acknowledged the mistake in casting a white actress in the role of an Asian woman. In the series, the Vietnamese-American character Diane Nguyen was played by white actress Allison Brie. Bob-Waksberg took to Twitter to discuss the casting and admit some things he wishes he did better. One thing he mentioned was not including a Vietnamese-American writer on the staff to work on the character.
Brie would later apologize on Instagram for taking the role stating “We missed a great opportunity to the Vietnamese-American community accurately and respectfully.”
Mike Henry as Cleveland Brown on “Family Guy” and “The Cleveland Show”
After voicing the character since 1999, actor Mike Henry announced that he would be stepping down from the role of Cleveland Brown. Cleveland has been one of the few prominent Black characters on “Family Guy” and even had a spin-off that ran for four seasons. The casting of Henry in the role caused criticism for years especially due to the spin-off series casting actual Black actors in the roles of his family members.
In a tweet by Henry, he said that he was honored to play the character but believes “persons of color should play characters of color.”
“The Simpsons” to no longer have non-white characters voiced by white actors
In a statement from a Fox spokesperson, non-white characters on “The Simpsons” will be recast to no longer have white voice actors.
“The Simpsons” is no stranger to the controversy of white voice actors playing non-white characters. The most well-known controversy involving actor Hank Azaria and his portrayal of the Indian character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. For years, the character of Apu has been criticized for representing many negative stereotypes about Indian people even inspiring a documentary by Indian comedian Hari Kondabolu discussing the problems with the character. In a 2018 appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” Azaria discussed the perception of the character saying that he felt sad to know that anyone was hurt by his portrayal.
Earlier in 2020, Azaria announced that he would no longer be playing the role of Apu. However, with the latest statement, “The Simpsons” plans to change more than just the character of Apu. Characters such as Carl, also played by Azaria, and Dr. Julis Hibbert, played by actor Harry Shearer, are going to be changed as well.