After the protests against police brutality and racism took place all over the globe following the killing of George Floyd, there has been a great call for change in all industries to address the systemic racism that lies within them. One being the animation industry and the long-standing issue it has with the whitewashing of voice actors.
The change has seen established voice actors stand down from their roles with others declining offers, to ensure appropriate and fair voice casting. Jenny Slate stepped away from her role voicing character Missy on Netflix’s Big Mouth, Mike Henry, the renowned voice actor for Family Guy, announced he will no longer be voicing Cleveland for FOX, and The Simpsons have vouched to no longer voice non-white characters by white actors.
We are really proud to work with Beano Studios who have, from the outset, provided accurate representation in voice casting for Dennis & Gnasher: Unleashed! seasons 1 and 2. JJ, a fearless and strong black female lead character, is voiced by Kathryn Drysdale, a mixed-raced actress from London. Kathryn has long been a staple on the British public’s screens, starring in St Trinians, BBC’s Two Pints of Lager and ITV’s period drama Vanity Fair as a black heiress in the 19th century.
Alongside this, Beano cast Kelly Marie Stewart, a voice actress with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, to voice Rubi Von ScrewTop, a genius inventor whose wheelchair never stops her from doing anything. Like the character she voices, Kelly acts as a vital role model to her fan base in addition to being the Ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign.
Beano continues to set a precedent in their casting with the introduction of season 2’s new character Miss Mistry, the art teacher. Miss Mistry is voiced by Maya Sondhi a British actress with Indian heritage, just like the character she voices. As well as representing on-screen, Maya also does incredible work behind the camera, writing for Mount Pleasant and This is Going to Hurt, as well as having two pilots in production.
The upheaval in change is a great starting point for major studios to create a waterfall effect for the entire industry and beyond. We call for more diversity in the industry, for more inclusive and positive resemblance in storytelling and for more opportunities to be given to non-white actors, writers, producers and directors.
Going forward we will continue to work with studios and create stories, which are diverse and inclusive to all, ensuring our fans grow up being resembled without stereotypes and with positive role models. It is time for white actors to pass the microphone and take a step back.