Hollywood has experienced a significant shift in the world of voice acting, which has seen many white actors step down from voicing non-white characters. Family Guy veteran Mike Henry, who voiced Cleveland Brown for two decades, was one of the actors to step away from his role. This left many to wonder who might be stepping into the shoes of Peter Griffin’s easy-going best friend. But we now know that the producers have tapped YouTube star and Cleveland Brown impressionist Arif Zahir to carry on the legacy. And since this changing of the guard, both actors shared a nice exchange.
After the news of his casting broke, Arif Zahir shared the announcement on his Instagram page, thanking the fans for their support and expressing gratitude to Mike Henry and the team at Family Guy for creating the character:
It’s been so hard to keep this a secret but here it is. The cat’s out the bag! Thank you to all of you who’ve supported me over these past 7 years. I could’ve never imagined such an achievement. Thank you Mike Henry for the amazing character you’ve created and everyone at Family Guy Fox for giving me this incredible opportunity. I promise not to let any of you down!
Mike Henry, who also serves as a producer and writer on Family Guy, later responded to the post, expressing his hope that the two could link up and chat soon:
Looking forward to working with you, Arif. Let’s talk Cleve to Cleve sometime soon.
Having the original actor reply to the post seemed to be surreal for Zahir, as he responded with a very enthusiastic message:
Likewise man! Dream come true right there!
It’s great to see the two Clevelands getting along so famously, and the two are sure to work together to both maintain who Cleveland is and find ways for the character to grow.
Zahir had actually been impersonating the character via his YouTube channel for quite some time and, after Henry departed the role, the young actor voiced his interest on social media and tagged Henry in the post. Luckily, the producers took notice.
Although Zahir is now the new Cleveland Brown, his voice won’t actually be heard this season. By the time Mike Henry resigned from playing the part, the actor had already recorded all of his material for Season 19, meaning that Zahir won’t make his official debut until Season 20 begins next fall. Still, if you want a taste of his take on the character, you can check out this recent post:
Family Guy and the animation world at large are definitely entering a new era, and it’s one that should allow for a more diverse range of talent inside the recording booth.
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