The Simpsons is following through on its pledge to have non-white actors voice characters of color on the show.
The Fox series will feature Alex Désert (The Flash, Better Things) voicing Carl Carlson, Homer’s (Dan Castellaneta) nuclear plant co-worker, in Sunday’s season premiere. Hank Azaria had played the part for nearly the show’s entire run prior to that.
What’s unclear is whether Désert will continue in the role. A statement from the show reads, “We are very pleased to welcome Alex Désert, playing Carl in the Simpsons season premiere.” Reps for The Simpsons declined further comment.
The casting of Désert — at least for this episode — makes good on a June statement from Simpsons producers that “Moving forward, The Simpsons will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters.”
The change came as the industry faced a reckoning over its record of inclusivity in the face of widespread social and racial justice protests over the 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 in stance by 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. Harry Shearer, meanwhile, has played Dr. Hibbert, who’s Black, for the show’s entire run. Tress MacNeille has also voiced several non-white characters, including Apu’s wife, Manjula.
Variety first reported the news.