Amid Calls for More Black Voice Actors, a Few Famous Voices Are Taking on Animated Roles

The Weeknd, Wyatt Cenac, and Thundercat are a few of the familiar faces who voiced, voice, or will voice characters on animated series amid calls for more representation in the voiceover space.
The Weeknd, Wyatt Cenac, and Thundercat are a few of the familiar faces who voiced, voice, or will voice characters on animated series amid calls for more representation in the voiceover space.
Photo: Jean Baptiste Lacroix (Getty Images), Dimitrios Kambouris (Getty Images), Paul Morigi (Getty Images)

Hollywood is beginning to take accountability and action in terms of diversifying their casts for television shows and films. Amid calls for change, last month white voice actors Jenny Slate (Big Mouth) and Kristen Bell (Central Park) announced they’d be stepping down from their roles as characters of color in order to allow voice actors of color to portray them. Now, according to a new piece from Vulture, a lack of Black voice actors getting work is indicative of a larger problem in the industry, which ultimately falls on its gatekeepers.

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“It feels like the problem has grown in part because there has been an emphasis on casting big names over the right names,” voice actor and comedian Wyatt Cenac, who voices two Black characters on Nickelodeon’s Fanboy & Chum Chum, says in the piece. “When we talk about systemic racism, when every top-level person is white, chances are that top-level talent is overwhelmingly white, too.”

 

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It appears that changes are being implemented on some animated shows, with some well-known voices at the helm. The Weeknd announced that he lent his voice to multiple characters on the animated stop-motion series Robot Chicken. The show celebrated its milestone 200th episode on July 26.

In a series of tweets, the “Blinding Lights” singer wrote that he and Twin Peaks actor David Lynch were featured in the special episode. The Weeknd voiced Tyler Perry’s “Madea,an auctioneer, and a S.W.A.T. team member. This wouldn’t be his first time at the cartoon rodeo: in May, he voiced the cartoon version of his musical alter ego on the show American Dad, where he performed the fictional song “I’m a Virgin.”

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In a conversation with Variety in May, The Weeknd (born Abel Tesfaye) said that he had aspirations of extending his brand beyond music, and that voice acting is a great first step.

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“I want to continue to create different Weeknds in alternate universes,” he affirmed before explaining how his Robot Chicken guest spot came to be. “I told Joel [Hurwitz, Robot Chicken and American Dad writer] I loved doing voices and wished I could have challenged myself more in that department, so he took me to the Robot Chicken studio, where [series co-creator] Seth Green was waiting for me. I totally geeked out and he actually let me do multiple voices on an episode coming out soon. The cartoon nerd in me jumped out that day.”

In other news that makes sense: SPIN reported last week that musician Thundercat wrote and will be performing the theme song for the upcoming Thundercats reboot on Cartoon Network. He will also reportedly voice one of the characters, writing on Twitter that he “always wanted to be a Thundercat.”

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Pronounced "Jay-nuh."

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Manitos, The Tiny Hands of Trump

I really want to keep an open mind and not shit on that new Thundercats cartoon, but man does it look bad.