Millions of Americans are fans of the animated tv series “Family Guy,” but VCU students had the opportunity to hear from one of the voice actors and producers of the popular Fox show last week.
On March 22, Richmond-native Mike Henry presented in the Student Commons theater at VCU, and spoke to students about growing up in Richmond and his experiences in the entertainment industry.
“Being that he is a successful writer and producer from Richmond of a show a majority of people are familiar with, we thought it would be great to show how someone from our area can be so successful by just being himself,” said Joannesse Veillard, the lectures chair of the Activities Programming Board, and organizer for Mike Henry’s visit to VCU.
Henry attended Collegiate School in Richmond and later attended Washington and Lee University. Henry’s brother, Patrick, attended the Rhode Island School of Design, and Henry said he would often act in his brother’s short films. It was at RISD that Henry met Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy.
A few years after Henry and MacFarlane graduated from RISD, Henry said MacFarlane contacted him about being a part of Family Guy. Henry agreed and came on as a writer, and would eventually go on to voice characters such as Herbert, Bruce, Consuela and Cleveland Brown.
Henry said the inspiration for Cleveland’s voice came from a person who he used to play basketball with. In 2009, Henry partnered with MacFarlane and “American Dad!” show runner Rich Appel to co-create the “Family Guy” spinoff “The Cleveland Brown Show.” The show ran for 44 episodes from 2009 until it’s cancellation in 2013.
Henry has since made a cameo appearance in the 2012 film “Ted” and 2014’s “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” He continues to write and do voice work for “Family Guy,” which is still enjoyed by millions of viewers. Henry’s work has garnered him three Primetime Emmy nominations and one Annie Award nomination.
One of the reasons Veillard said the Activities Programing Board wanted Henry to speak to students was because so many would be familiar with him.
“We invited Mike Henry because we wanted to reach out to a different community here at VCU,” Veillard said.
During his visit to VCU, Henry was open to students, their questions, and how to guide them on their own journey. He did voices for some of his characters and encouraged students to be themselves and to stress less on life and more on trusting their instincts and follow what they’re passionate about.
Jacob Sexton is also a Richmond native and a freshman at VCU who had the opportunity to hear Henry speak.
“He grew up in the West End and talked about his experience growing up in Richmond, how he pursued his dreams and realized that failure is just a step to success,” Sexton said.
Veillard said she organized the event toward the beginning of the semester and felt it was a success with students.
“He went through multiple opportunities that just didn’t work out but he kept on pursuing his dream so that was the main point that I got out of it,” Sexton said.
Adriel Velazquez, Contributing Writer