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The Simpsons star says re-casting Black character has ‘affected’ show


The Simpsons star Harry Shearer has said recasting him with a Black actor has negatively “affected” one of the show’s main characters.

Shearer voices 20 characters on the animated series, including Mr Burns, Ned Flanders and Principal Skinner.

Until 2021, Shearer also voiced Springfield physician Dr Hibbert but found himself suddenly replaced amid calls to recast the show’s non-white characters, which were voiced by white actors.

The animated sitcom had been criticised for years for white actor Hank Azaria’s portrayal of Indian-American convenience store owner Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, a controversy explored in the documentary The Problem with Apu.

Another character who was recast was Dr Hibbert, who had been played by Shearer since 1990. The actor always said that he had played him as a parody of now-disgraced comedian Bill Cosby.

The physician is now voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson – and Shearer has suggested that the recasting has “affected” the effectiveness of the character.

Speaking to The Times, Shearer said: “Folk say the show has become woke in recent years and one of my characters has been affected.

“I voiced the black physician, Dr Hibbert, who I based on Bill Cosby. Back then he was known as the ‘whitest Black man on television’.

“Then, a couple of years ago, I received an email saying they’d employed a Black actor, who then copied my voice.

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Shearer then questioned the effectiveness of Richardson’s performance as the character, stating: “The result is a Black man imitating a white man imitating the whitest Black man on TV.”

‘The Simpsons’ character Dr Hibbert used to be voiced by Harry Shearer (Fox)

Dr Hibbert is not the only Black character on the series to be recast. Last year, Alex Désert made his debut as Homer’s friend and co-worker Carl Carlson, a role which had previously been voiced by Hank Azaria.

Fans reacted positively to the new voice work, with many claiming they “couldn’t tell the difference”.

Since the documentary The Problem with Apu debuted, Apu has been quietly sidelined.

Addressing the controversy surrounding his voicework on the show, Azaria said that he “helped create a dehumanising stereotype”.

After the announcement that white actors would no longer voice non-white characters on The Simpsons, creator Matt Groening said: “It was not my idea, but I’m fine with it. Who can be against diversity? So it’s great.

“However, I will just say that the actors were not hired to play specific characters. They were hired to do whatever characters we thought of. To me, the amazing thing is seeing all our brilliant actors who can do multiple voices, do multiple voices.”



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