The Simpsons’ producers have pledged to stop using white actors to voice people of colour in the animated comedy series.
The move follows increased scrutiny on the practise of white actors playing characters from ethnic minority backgrounds, in the wake of continued Black Lives Matters protests around the world.
Hank Azaria, who has voiced Indian-American Apu on the programme since 1990, had already announced that he planned to stand down from the role earlier this year – and it looks like that will now extend to other roles including black police officer Lou and the Mexican-American Bumblebee Man.
The producers said in a statement, “Moving forward, The Simpsons will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters.”
Other white actors voicing people of colour in a number of animated shows have also stood down in the past week, including Mike Henry, who plays Cleveland Brown on Family Guy, and Jenny Slate, who voiced the mixed race character Missy on Netflix show Big Mouth.
Henry – who had played Cleveland for two decade – said of his decision, “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.”
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
Meanwhile Kristen Bell, who recently played the role of Molly Tillerman in the first season of Apple TV+ series Central Park has stood down for the same reasons.
She said, “Casting a mixed race character [with a] white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race and Black American experience.”