Harry Shearer: 'Simpsons' Contract Saga "Wasn't a Stunt"

The voice of Mr. Burns (and 20 others) said there were "real issues that had to be resolved."
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Harry Shearer

Just three months after it looked like The Simpsons would lose one of its most iconic voice artists over a contractual spat that played out over Twitter, Harry Shearer has spoken out about the situation, claiming that it wasn’t simply a ruse to increase his wages.

“All I can say is, it wasn’t a stunt,” the actor and comedian told the U.K.'s The Guardian newspaper.

“There were real issues that had to be resolved, and they were.”

In May, it emerged that Shearer was the lone castmember not to have signed on for seasons 27 and 28 of the series, tweeting that he had been told his contract wasn’t being renewed and claiming it was because he wanted “the freedom to do other work.”

But Shearer’s supposed departure took a U-turn in July, when the two parties finally agreed, and he signed a two-year deal (with an option for another two seasons), estimated at around $300,000 per episode — the same as his fellow voice artists.

“The real danger to me in working in this business is, if you become tired of or contemptuous of the audience, it shows. If you give the audience a bunch of different things, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the reason [they remember you],” he added.

“I’m lucky that I can walk down the street and maybe one person will recognize me from The Simpsons and another person with recognize me from Spinal Tap, and it’s always surprising.”

At the time of the contractual dispute, Simpsons showrunner Al Jean said he was confused about Shearer's request to do other work.

“He said he wanted to do other projects, which makes no sense because we've always let the cast do all the other projects they want — they have great free time. So I don't really know what he's up to [or] what he's thinking," Jean told The Hollywood Reporter in May.

When the settlement was reached, Jean tweeted that there had been a “misunderstanding” and that there was a period where Shearer had believed he was on a five-week free period from the show.

“I was unaware of this fact and did, in fact, request material from him. If so, my bad. I am truly glad he is returning to the show.”

Shearer, who voices some 21 characters in The Simpsons and has been with the series since its days on The Tracey Ullman Show, is expanding his work outside of the show.

Alongside his own weekly radio program, this month he'll host a BBC Radio documentary marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and examining its impact on New Orleans — his second documentary on the subject.

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