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The Simpsons is making another move to diversify its voice cast.
Harry Shearer, a member of the long-running Fox animated series’ core cast, will stop voicing Dr. Julius Hibbert, who is Black, on the show. Sunday’s episode, “DiaryQueen,” featured Shearer providing the character’s voice for the final time.
Starting with the Feb. 28 episode, “Wad Goals,” Kevin Michael Richardson will take over as Dr. Hibbert. Richardson is a prolific voice actor who has worked on more than 70 Simpsons episodes in the past; his credits also include Family Guy, American Dad and F Is for Family.
Richardson’s casting follows that of Alex Désert as Homer’s (Dan Castellaneta) co-worker Carl Carlson (previously played by Hank Azaria) and Jenny Yokobori as Kumiko Albertson (previously voiced by Tress MacNeille), the wife of Comic Book Guy.
It also further makes good on a statement Simpsons producers made in June 2020, when they said that “Moving forward, The Simpsons will no longer have white actors voice nonwhite characters.“
That statement came as the animation industry faced a reckoning over its record of inclusivity in the face of widespread social and racial justice protests last summer. Animated series including Netflix’s Big Mouth and Apple’s Central Park also made moves to recast BIPOC characters with actors of color, and Family Guy regular Mike Henry said he would no longer voice the character of Cleveland Brown, who’s Black, on the show.
It also represented a major shift for The Simpsons, which for years had faced calls for a South Asian actor take over the role of Apu from Azaria (the character is the subject of The Problem With Apu, a 2017 documentary by comedian Hari Kondabolu). Azaria has since stopped voicing Apu but continued to do voices for Carl and Springfield police officer Lou, who are Black, and Hispanic character Bumblebee Man. Shearer, meanwhile, had played Dr. Hibbert, who’s Black, for the show’s entire run. MacNeille has also voiced several nonwhite characters, including Apu’s wife, Manjula.
Vulture first reported the news.
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