“The Simpsons,” the long-running, irreverent animated TV show, will recast a voice actor who has played a black doctor for 31 years.
White actor Harry Shearer has played the character of Dr. Hibbert on the show, but next week he will be voiced by black actor Kevin Michael Richardson, who voices characters in “Family Guy” and “American Dad!”
“Last night’s episode ‘DiaryQueen’ featured Harry Shearer as the voice of Dr. Hibbert for the last time,” 20th Television said in a statement provided to The Wrap on Monday. “Next Sunday’s episode ‘Wad Goals’ will have Kevin Michael Richardson voicing Dr. Hibbert — and from there on out he will voice the character.”
Shearer has voiced Hibbert since the show’s second season in 1990.
The change came after Fox said last summer that “The Simpsons” will do away with actors playing other races, the longest-running in TV history.
“Moving forward, ‘The Simpsons’ will no longer have white actors voice nonwhite characters,” the network said in a June statement at the time, shortly after Black Lives Matter riots exploded following the death of George Floyd while in police custody.
The statement came after “Family Guy” star Mike Henry, who is white, announced he would no longer voice black character Cleveland Brown, one of the most popular on the show.
Earlier this year, Hank Azaria, who plays bartender Moe Szyslak and a slew of other characters on the show, announced he would stop voicing the Indian convenience-store proprietor Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.
“My eyes have been opened,” Azaria said in a January interview. “I think the most important thing is we have to listen to South Asian people, Indian people in this country when they talk about what they feel, how they think about this character, and what their American experience of it [is].”
“What they’re going to do with the character is their call, it’s up to them, they haven’t sorted that out yet,” Azaria said of “The Simpsons” team. “All we agreed on is that I won’t do the voice anymore. We all had made the decision together, we all feel it was the right thing and good about it,” he added.
It’s not the first time a character has been recast because of race. Last June, actress Kristen Bell announced she would no longer be the voice of Molly, a mixed-race character on Apple TV+’s animated musical comedy series Central Park.
“Casting a mixed race character with a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race and Black American experience,” she wrote on Twitter at the time. “This is a time to acknowledge our acts of complicity. Here is one of mine. Playing the character of Molly on Central Park shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege.”
Netflix’s animated comedy Big Mouth also recast Jenny Slate in the role Missy, a biracial girl, replaced with a black actress.
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