Animated TV comedy The Simpsons is ending the use of white actors to voice characters of color, producers said on Friday.
‘Moving forward, The Simpsons will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters,’ they said in a brief statement.
The statement did not elaborate but the move follows years of public pressure about the Fox television show’s Indian convenience store character Apu, who is voiced by Hank Azaria.
Azaria said earlier this year that he would no longer play the character, which has been criticized as a negative portrayal of Indian-Americans.
Azaria has also voiced the Simpsons characters of black police officer Lou and the Mexican-American Bumblebee Man. Harry Shearer has played Dr. Hibbert, who is black.
Friday’s statement did not say whether Apu or the other characters would remain on the series.
In January Azaria said he wasn’t sure how to approach the issue or whether to stubbornly keep playing the character, but knew he needed more time to figure it out.
As a white Jewish man, Azaria said he started asking himself how he would feel about a prominent TV character representing him on television in the same way.
‘But then I started thinking, if that character were the only representation of Jewish people in American culture for 20 years, which was the case with Apu, I might not love that,’ he said.
Azaria first debuted as the character during season one in 1990.
Bumbling Homer Simpson, housewife Marge, troublemaker Bart, prodigy Lisa and baby Maggie have captured the changing face of America for more than 30 years in the longest-running scripted show on U.S. television.
The Simpsons is syndicated in more than 100 countries.
Friday’s announcement comes amidst a widespread reckoning for U.S. pop culture about racism following mass protests this month over the killings of Black Americans by police.
Other white actors, including Mike Henry of animated series Family Guy and Kristen Bell of Central Park, who are both white, have also said they will no longer voice characters of color.
‘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 said on Twitter on Friday.
The 54-year-old voice actor, who is a white man, has voiced the character since the series´ debut in 1999.
Henry had also voiced the Latina maid named Consuela on the series.
Voice actors Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell – who are white – pulled out of their roles on their respective shows to have their biracial characters with someone of color.