Voice actress Erin Fitzgerald has stepped down from her role as Guilty Gear Strive character Ramlethal to open the role up to a Black actress, Fitzgerald revealed Friday.
Ramlethal Valentine is a Black woman. Fitzgerald, as a white woman, stated she "happily stepped away from so they could cast more appropriately."
When a fan asked what happened, Fitzgerald clarified, "The character is black I am not black. I support more work for black actresses behind the mic."
Fitzgerald's decision appears to have led directly to more representation for Black actors, as voice actress Laura Stahl has now been cast in the role. Stahl retweeted Fitzgerald to add context to her decision to take the part.
"Before I accepted the role of Ramlethal, I asked for clarification on the situation, and not only do I deeply respect Erin as an actor, but as an amazing person as well. Thank you for your grace. You are phenomenal," she wrote, ending the tweet with a red heart emoji.
Fitzgerald had played Ramlethal since the character's first appearance in Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-, released in 2014. Strive will be released June 11 for PlayStation 5, PS4 and PC.
As is the case in many industries, voice acting is rife with discrimination against people of color. Wargroove developer Chucklefish faced controversy in 2019 when that game used white voice actors for Black characters, and Naughty Dog saw a similar outrage when Uncharted 4, released in 2016, cast a white woman in the role of a Black South African character.
Fitzgerald may have played the role of Ramlethal for several years, but her decision to step down of her own accord would have been all but unheard of just a few years ago. Similar role recusals have taken place in movies and television: Hank Azaria, the longtime voice of Apu on "The Simpsons," opted to step away from the role this year, for example.
An optimistic reading of the situation would take Fitzgerald's decision as a sign of changing times, and perhaps another in a growing trend of white actors forgoing some of their privilege in solidarity with their colleagues of color. But as valuable as these individual moments are, they don't address the larger system of casting that prefers white faces to brown ones. Real change will come only when the systems that allow and encourage this whitewashing are amended or done away with entirely.