BoJack Horseman Creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg Had a Thoughtful Response to Accusations of Whitewashing

Image: Netflix
Image: Netflix

Though BoJack Horseman has built up a loyal fanbase since it debuted on Netflix four years ago, there’s been a contingent who have criticized the series over the voice casting of one of its main characters. Creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg was recently asked about the issue, and his response was pretty much the best answer that can be given in such a scenario.


Diane Nguyen is the human woman initially assigned to ghostwrite BoJack’s forthcoming memoirs and over the course of the show, the pair have gone from being ambivalent colleagues to something more like proper (if a bit dysfunctional) friends. Allison Brie, the actress who voices Diane, is white and while Diane’s ethnicity (she’s written as a Vietnamese woman) doesn’t always feature prominently in her BoJack Horseman plot lines, it’s part of her identity all the same, which is what gave many people pause when word first broke of Brie’s casting.

In the four years since BoJack first premiered creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg hadn’t really spoken out all that much about the accusations calling the show out for casting a white actor to portray a character of color. But when a fan recently asked Bob-Waksberg about the show’s lack of representation, he said that while he supports the cast he works with now, if given the opportunity to develop the show now, he’d make a point of not simply leaning on the idea of color-blind casting.

At the time, Bob-Waksberg added that he didn’t think Twitter was the best place to fully express his feelings about the whitewashing issue but he followed up in an interview with Uproxx yesterday where he spelled out his thoughts more fully.

When asked about whether he knew about the criticisms being leveled against the show, Bob-Waksberg admitted that he did and also said he believed no one had ever asked him about it directly in interviews because most of the people interviewing him were other white men:

“For a while I thought, maybe I shouldn’t be the one having this conversation. Maybe it’s better if other people are talking about the show — people of color, people who have lived experience, people who can actually talk about this more eloquently than I can. Maybe it’s better for me to just make the show and try to listen to what people are saying and adjust [accordingly.]

But more and more I feel like this is my show and these are decisions that I’ve made and it’s my responsibility to talk about them even if it’s going to be awkward and even if it’s going to feel weird for me… I think it’s worth talking about and I feel like my silence can be read as ‘There’s not a problem here’ and I’m not comfortable with that anymore.”


Bob-Waksberg’s comments are a refreshing change of pace from the cavalcade of people within the industry who, after being fairly called out for whitewashing and other forms of less-than-ideal on-screen representation, either dismiss the claims entirely or pretend that they aren’t a problem.

This is how you own up to a mistake publicly, keep it moving, and let everybody know you’re going to do your damnedest to do better in the future.



io9 Culture Critic and Staff Writer. Cyclops was right.


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I think voice acting is a qualitatively different problem than live action. It’s undoubtedly gross to cast a white person as a middle easterner or asian and then slap makeup on them or a tan. Although it still boggles my mind that authors on this site seems to think casting a Chinese person to play a Japanese role is OK because they’re both Asian.

Voice acting? Not so much I think. Creating character voices is part of the art of voice acting. To say that the actor has to be the same race/ethnicity as the character is in my opinion the same as saying you can’t draw or write characters that don’t share your identity. It also raises so many practical and theoretical questions. For example, what about the Japanese casts of anime playing characters of all sorts of racial backgrounds? What about dubbing casts who are to the target language group the main cast?