8:00am PT by Chris Gardner
'Simpsons' Actor Harry Shearer Mocks Trump on New Album
On July 23, Simpsons voice legend Harry Shearer dropped a new music video on YouTube titled Son in Law. Shearer sings, acts and even does a shimmy dance — but not even if you squint will you see him. And that’s the point.
Shearer appears as President Donald Trump, holding a press conference, sitting at his desk inside the Oval Office, and walking to the White House lawn. It’s an uncanny match that was accomplished through motion-capture animation done in collaboration with Matt Hermans of the Electric Lens Co. and Michela Ledwidge of MOD Studio, both in Sydney, Australia. The track features Trump saluting his senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner and was the first release of a planned weekly drop of satirical songs inspired by Trump’s presidency off his forthcoming album, “The Many Moods of Donald Trump,” that all add up to paint a full portrait of the president from a veteran satirist.
He's been dropping a new single every week with plans to continue through the fall and what he's jokingly referring to as "the shank" of the campaign. “In accordance with President Trump’s desire to be watched every single moment of every day, I have been watching,” Shearer explains to The Hollywood Reporter about his creative inspiration. “I had a big load of songs about this guy, so I went through and picked what I thought were the best of them.”
Before lockdown orders went into effect, Shearer was traveling with his wife in Australia where he met Hermans, and he asked if he would be able to create a version of Trump that would work for the project. “He said, ‘I think I can, mate,’” recalls Shearer, who says he's not seen any other Trump impressionists and he likes it that way. “My path has always been to use it to get as close to reality as possible.”
Shearer has experience stepping into the shoes of a U.S. president. Not only has he vocally satirized every president during his lifetime, but he also played Richard Nixon in the series Nixon’s the One, and Ronald Reagan on Saturday Night Live. “I wanted animation that was as transparent to show the performance as translated in this other person,” he elaborates on the process, which saw him wearing the suit that was all wired up. “This got way closer than I ever have gotten before. The technology keeps advancing.”
As for who paid, Shearer says the bill goes to his own record company, though he estimates the final cost at under six figures. Whether he will set his sights on Joe Biden should he be elected, Shearer is clear: “The satirist’s job is mainly to make fun of people in power.” Targeting Jared Kushner with Son in Law was an obvious choice: "It's just a marvel to see somebody whose portfolio expands to the outward reaches of his lack of competence. It's really astonishing."
In addition to his Simpsons duties and various side projects, Shearer says he’s “in the world’s longest development process” for a musical comedy about the life of J. Edgar Hoover that he’d like to direct from a script he co-wrote with Tom Leopold, with music by Peter Matz. Shearer recently became the subject of many headlines when he responded to a question about the decision on The Simpsons to no longer use white actors to voice nonwhite characters — meaning he’ll no longer voice characters like Dr. Julius Hibbert — with, “The job of the actor is to play someone they’re not.”
Asked by THR if he was surprised by how his comments were received, he said yes. “I was very clearly stating a general thought. I’m surprised that it has been depicted in so many press accounts as a criticism of people I’m involved with professionally. The question was trying to get me to do that,” he explained. “I do think the salient issue remains [representation] being in decision-making positions: deciding what stories to tell and how to tell them. That’s what counts.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.