'People of colour should play characters of colour' | The Simpsons and Family Guy recast... as The Office cuts blackface scene

'People of colour should play characters of colour'

The Simpsons and Family Guy recast... as The Office cuts blackface scene

White actors will no longer voice black and Asian characters on The Simpsons and Family Guy, producers have announced.

And separately, makers of the US version of The Office have cut a scene from a 2012 episode featuring blackface on streaming sites.

The Simpsons has long been criticised over the fact that white actor Hank Azaria plays the Indian convenience store owner Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.

In January, Azaria - who also voices black police officer Lou – said he would step down from the role he had played since 1990.

The issue was thrown into the spotlight in 2017, when comedian Hari Kondabolu made the documentary The Problem with Apu, and has become increasingly sensitive as the portrayal of non-white characters on TV comes under renewed scrutiny.

In a short statement issued yesterday the show’s producers pledged: ‘Moving forward, The Simpsons will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters’

Meanwhile, white actor Mike Henry announced he would step down from the role of Cleveland Brown on Family Guy after two decades. 

In a statement on Twitter, the actor said: ‘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.’

Henry also voiced the character in his own spin-off, The Cleveland Show.

The moves follow the news that  Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell will no longer voice black characters on the animated series Big Mouth and  Central Park respectively. ‘Casting a mixed race character [with a] white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race and Black American experience,’ Bell said.

Meanwhile, a scene from the season 9 episode of The Office , which originally aired in 2012, has been removed as it shows a character in blackface.

In the episode, Dwight Schrute, as played by Rainn Wilson, tries to celebrate a traditional  Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas. Then his colleague learn about the genuine folk figure of Zwarte Piet, or Black Peter, a slave boy often portrayed in blackface and react with horror.

Dwight insists: ‘Oh, come on. We don’t blindly stick to every outmoded aspect of our traditions…’' before pulling out his phone and sending a text. Cut to a colleague preparing to come into the Christmas party dressed as Zwarte Piet.

Series creator Greg Daniels told The Wrap: ‘The show employed satire to expose unacceptable behaviour and deliver a message of inclusion. Today we cut a shot of an actor wearing blackface that was used to criticize a specific racist European practice.  Blackface is unacceptable and making the point so graphically is hurtful and wrong. I am sorry for the pain that caused.'

The old version of the episode has been removed from Netflix and will not be circulated for syndication any more.

Published: 27 Jun 2020

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