The Simpsons Star Talks No Longer Voicing Black Characters & Idea the Show ‘Has Become Woke’


Summary

  • Harry Shearer comments on
    The Simpsons
    “becoming woke,” highlighting his replacement as Dr. Hibbert.
  • Shearer discusses issue of new voice actor for Dr. Hibbert being a Black man imitating his white portrayal of the character.
  • The Simpsons
    producers have made a decision to no longer have white actors voice non-white characters, following a statement made in 2020.



The Simpsons alum Harry Shearer has commented on the idea that the long (really long) running animated series has “become woke” after the voice actor was replaced as the voice of one of the show’s most prominent Black characters, Dr. Hibbert. Speaking with The Times, Shearer addressed The Simpsons producers’ decision to no longer allow white actors to voice non-white characters, saying…

“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.’”

For Shearer, this has presented a whole other problem, with the actor believing that the voice of Dr. Hibbert, who is now played by Kevin Michael Richardson, is now “a Black man imitating a white man imitating the whitest Black man on TV.”


“Then, a couple of years ago, I received an email saying they’d employed a Black actor, who then copied my voice. The result is a Black man imitating a white man imitating the whitest Black man on TV.”

The change of voice actor to better represent the character on screen is not just something that The Simpsons has endeavored to do of late, with the likes of Big Mouth star Jenny Slate being replaced with The Bear star and Emmy Award winner Ayo Edebiri as Missy, while Family Guy saw Arif Zahir taking over as the voice of Cleveland Brown from Mike Henry.


The Simpsons Will No Longer Have White Actors Voice Non-white Characters

The Simpsons

Release Date
December 17, 1989

Seasons
35

Studio
Fox


The producers behind The Simpsons issued a statement back in 2020 stating that white actors would no longer voice non-white characters. “Moving forward, ‘The Simpsons’ will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters,” they said in at the time.

Since making the statement, Dr. Hibbert is not the only character to be recast, with Homer Simpson’s friend and colleague Carl Carlson now being voiced by Alex Désert rather than Hank Azaria. Azaria has been at the forefront of The Simpsons voice acting controversy or, more accurately, his character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon has.

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Following the release of the documentary The Problem with Apu, Azaria apologized for his role in creating “practically a slur” with the character.


“I was speaking at my son’s school, I was talking to the Indian kids there because I wanted to get their input. A 17-year-old … he’s never even seen The Simpsons but knows what Apu means. It’s practically a slur at this point. All he knows is that is how his people are thought of and represented to many people in this country.

I really do apologize. It’s important. I apologize for my part in creating that and participating in that. Part of me feels like I need to go to every single Indian person in this country and personally apologize. And sometimes I do.”

The Simpsons
is currently on its 35th season and has been renewed for a 36th, which will start in Fall 2024.



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