‘The Simpsons’ Star Vents About ‘Woke’ Decision to Recast Black Role With Black Actor

The Simpsons character Dr. Hibbert. (Credit: Fox)

The Simpsons actor Harry Shearer is suggesting the show’s creative team played racial politics by recently recasting a Black character he originated years ago.

Shearer, who is white, has voiced several characters on the animated Fox sitcom, including Black physician Dr. Julius Hibbert.

Shearer said he was notified via email that Dr. Hibbert would be recast, and his replacement would be Black.

“I voiced the Black physician, Dr. Hibbert, who I based on Bill Cosby. Back then [Cosby] was known as the ‘whitest Black man on television,'” Shearer told The Times of London in an article published on May 12.

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(L-R) Voice actors Harry Shearer and Kevin Michael Richardson (Credit: Deposit Photos)
(L-R) Harry Shearer and Kevin Michael Richardson (Credit: Deposit Photos)

The decision to recast the role came in June 2020, when producers decided the show’s characters of color would no longer be voiced by white actors.

The announcement was made amid debate over systemic racism in the media, following the deaths of George Floyd and other African Americans at the hands of police officers, which sparked a racial awakening across the country.

Kevin Michael Richardson, who is Black and worked on Family Guy and The Cleveland Show, took over the Dr. Hibbert role in 2021.

Shearer, 80, suggested “woke” culture factored into the decision to stop white actors from voicing non-white characters.

“Folks say the show has become woke in recent years, and one of my characters has been affected,” Shearer said in the Times interview.

The Los Angeles native dismissed Richardson’s work, saying the actor “copied” his voice.

“The result is a Black man imitating a white man imitating the whitest Black man on TV,” he said.

Shearer still voices several characters on the show, including Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy, and Principal Skinner.

Hank Azaria, who is white, stepped down in 2020 from voicing Indian character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon on the series. Azaria later apologized for portraying the heavily-accented convenience store owner, for over a decade.

Speaking on the “Armchair Expert” podcast in 2021, Azaria said he made a mistake by taking on the role.

“I really didn’t know any better,” he said. “I didn’t think about it. I was unaware how much relative advantage I had received in this country as a white kid from Queens.”

He added, “I apologize for my part in creating that and participating in that. Part of me feels I need to go round to every single Indian person in this country and personally apologize.”

In 2021, The Simpsons creator Matt Groening told the BBC he wanted to move toward greater representation.

“Bigotry and racism are still an incredible problem and it’s good to finally go for more equality and representation,” Groening said. “All of our actors play dozens of characters each, it was never designed to exclude anyone.”

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