The Simpsons will not have white actors voicing non-white characters going forward. Fox announced the decision Friday afternoon with a simple statement. “Moving forward, ‘The Simpsons’ will no longer have white actors voice nonwhite characters,” they wrote. This move comes on the heels of a number of animated programs choosing to employ similar decisions. Family Guy had its own talent shakeup as Mike Henry, the longtime voice of Cleveland Brown will be leaving the role so that a Black actor can be hired. Earlier this year, The Simpsons decided that Hank Azaria would no longer be the one to voice Apu on the show. This decision stemmed from conversations around the show after The Problem With Apu premiered.
Back then, the show put out a statement on their decision, “We respect Hank’s journey in regard to Apu. We have granted his wish to no longer voice the character. Apu is beloved worldwide. We love him too. Stay tuned.” Azaria was asked for his opinion on the topic after he made the decision but just knew that everything after the decision to step away was not up to him. “What they’re going to do with the character is their call. It’s up to them and they haven’t sorted it out yet. All we’ve agreed on is I won’t do the voice anymore,” he said.
Back at the Television Critics Association press event for The Simpsons in 2018, Azaria shared some thoughts about the entire situation.
“I think it’s really important when people express themselves about racial issues, what they feel is unfair or upsetting or distressing or makes them angry, sad or hurt,” he began. “The most important thing to do is listen, try to understand, try to sympathize, which is what I’m doing. I know that The Simpsons guys are doing that too; they’re giving it a lot of thought, and we’ve discussed a little bit. They will definitely address — maybe publicly, certainly creatively within the context of the show — what they want to do, if anything, with the character.”
These are just the latest moves as both Central Park and Big Mouth have made the decision to recast Black roles with Black actors. This has become a moment of reflection for many animated programs as they work to achieve the diversity being preached at so many networks and studios.
What do you make of all this shakeup in Animation? Let us know in the comments!