Arif Zahir Replaces Mike Henry as Cleveland Brown on Family Guy
According to Deadline, YouTube star Arif Zahir will be replacing Mike Henry as Cleveland Brown on Fox’s animated series Family Guy after Henry announced in June that he would be stepping down from the role. Henry, who is white, has voiced the character since the show premiered in 1999, but chose to step away from the role saying, “I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color.”
Zahir will start voicing Cleveland for Family Guy’s 19th season, which is now beginning production. Episodes had already been completed or were in “advanced stages of animation” for Season 18 when Henry exited the role, meaning he will still voice the character for Season 18 before Zahir takes over for the following season. Henry will remain a series regular on Family Guy, voicing Bruce the Performance Artist, Herbert the Pedophile, and other roles.
“I welcome Arif to the Family Guy team,” Henry said. “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 is partly known for his Cleveland Brown impersonations from his YouTube Channel that has garnered millions of views.
“Firstly, I’m eternally grateful to have received this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Zahir said. “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.”
Along with Bob’s Burgers, Family Guy was recently picked up by the network for two more seasons, taking the animated series to its 20th season. Family Guy was created and is executive produced by Seth MacFarlane. Rich Appel and Alec Sulkin serve as executive producers and showrunners on the animated series, with Steve Callaghan, Tom Devanney, Danny Smith, Kara Vallow, Mark Hentemann, and Patrick Meighan also serving as executive producers. The show is set to return for Season 18 on Sunday with its 350th episode.