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FOX’s ‘Family Guy’ Casts New Cleveland Brown

Network announces cast change for show’s upcoming 19th season, set to air beginning Fall 2021.

Voice actor and YouTube star Arif Zahir has joined the cast of FOX’s Sunday Night Animation Domination stalwart, Family Guy, replacing Mike Henry in the role of Cleveland Brown, according to series creator and executive producer Seth MacFarlane and showrunners Rich Appel and Alec Sulkin.

This past June, Henry announced via Twitter that he would no longer voice the character, saying, “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.”

While Henry is staying with the show as a voice performer and series regular, Zahir will take over and begin voicing the role of Cleveland for Season 19 episodes, now in production, which will air beginning Fall 2021. The already completed Season 18, which begins airing this coming Sunday night with the show’s 350th episode, will continue to feature Henry as Cleveland.

Said Henry, “I welcome Arif to the Family Guy team. Arif’s vocal talent is obvious, but his understanding of Cleveland and his respect for the character give me confidence that he is in the right hands. I look forward to getting to know Arif and working with him to make sure Cleveland stays every bit as awesome as he has always been.”

Zahir remarked, “Firstly, I’m eternally grateful to have received this once in a lifetime opportunity. When I heard that Mike Henry was stepping down from the role of Cleveland Brown- my favorite cartoon character of all time- I was shocked and saddened, assuming we’d never see him again. When I learned I would get to take over the role? Overabundant gratitude. To Mike, you created something truly special and I promise I will do my absolute best to honor your legacy. To Rich Appel, Alec Sulkin and Seth MacFarlane, thank you for this incredible gift. And to the millions of fans who love this show, I promise not to let you down.” 

Also known as Azerrz to his more than 6.2 million YouTube subscribers, Zahir is a noted impressionist; his July tribute video to Mike Henry and his work voicing Cleveland Brown – with him playing Modern Warfare as Cleveland Brown - is shown below.

Source: Disney Television Studios

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.