The producers of the long-running animated series announced on Friday that ‘The Simpsons’ will no longer use white actors to dub ethnic minority characters.
The decision includes a recurring character from the series, launched in 1989 — Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, a grocer of Indian origin voiced in the American version of the show by white actor Hank Azaria.
The announcement came as Mike Henry, the white actor who voices the black character of Cleveland Brown in ‘Family Guy’, another animated series produced by Fox, announced on Twitter that he was giving up the role.
“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,” he wrote.
The character, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon has long been seen as problematic and conveying racist stereotypes. Last January Azaria announced that, in agreement with producers, he was abandoning the role.
“Moving forward, THE SIMPSONS will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters,” Fox Studios said in a statement.
Americans are in the midst of a reckoning on systemic racism and discrimination ignited by the killing of George Floyd, an African American man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25.
The change will also affect the character of Dr Hibbert, a black man dubbed by the white actor Harry Shearer who also lends his voice to many other characters on the series — from Homer Simpson’s boss Mr. Burns to the chirpy neighbour Ned Flanders.