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The Behind-The-Scenes Controversy That Changed Cleveland From Family Guy Forever

For an impressive 20 seasons, Fox's "Family Guy" has been bringing belly laughs to audiences as they enjoy the hilariously crude antics of Peter Griffin (Seth MacFarlane) and the other residents of Quahog.

When Peter isn't with his wife Lois (Alex Borstein), children, and talking dog Brian (MacFarlane), he can be spotted hanging out with his three friends -– Glenn Quagmire (MacFarlane), Joe Swanson (Patrick Warburton), and Cleveland Brown (Mike Henry). The latter is the only Black character in Quahog, not unlike Token/Tolkien (Adrien Beard) in Comedy Central's "South Park." In 2009, Cleveland landed his own spinoff series, "The Cleveland Show," which aired for four seasons.

Unlike in "Family Guy," Cleveland's race is celebrated in the spin-off rather than briefly touched upon. An entire episode is dedicated to Black History Month, with Cleveland waking his kids up at the crack of dawn to get the festivities started. In another episode, baby Rallo (Henry) sets out on a mission to find his sister Roberta (Nia Long, Reagan Gomez) a relationship with a Black man, who he feels would be a better fit than her white boyfriend Federline (Jamie Kennedy).

However, in 2020, something significant happened behind the scenes regarding Cleveland that changed the character forever.

Mike Henry stepped down so that a person of color could play Cleveland

Since the inception of "Family Guy" in 1999, Mike Henry has voiced Cleveland, as well as other favorites, such as housekeeper Consuela, perverted neighbor John Herbert, and Greased-Up-Deaf-Guy. But in June 2020, the voice actor, who is white, announced that he'd be stepping down from his role of Cleveland. He said on Twitter, "I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color."

Henry, who continues to voice Herbert and the other Quahog locals, was replaced by Black YouTube star Arif Zahir for Season 19, which premiered in September 2020. Zahir was honored to lend his voice to his favorite cartoon character (via Deadline). He said. "To Mike, you created something truly special, and I promise I will do my absolute best to honor your legacy."

A number of "Family Guy" fans felt this switch should've happened sooner. On Twitter, @sorayasname commented, "People in the comments are so mad about this but this was 100% the right move. Sad it took 20 years for this decision to be made."

Meanwhile, many didn't see anything wrong with Cleveland being voiced by Henry. @EllisHackettJr wrote, "Hey I (obviously a black man) have enjoyed your performances ... Voices are voices. There are no colors assigned to them ... Your portrayal of Cleveland was good enough to land your own show. In my book, you are an honorary black man."

Others pondered whether or not Henry should also step down from voicing Consuela so that a Hispanic woman could portray her. So far, it seems that Henry is still behind her signature, "No, no, no."