The creator of The Simpsons, Matt Groening, has spoken out about the show’s decision to recast its non-white roles, following allegations of racial stereotypes in recent years.
On Tuesday it was announced that the character of Dr. Hibbert, voiced by white actor Harry Shearer, was replaced by black actor Kevin Michael Richardson.
Cartoonist Matt, 67, said that while he had no problem with white actors playing non-white characters on The Simpsons, he accepts that time has changed since the show launched in 1989.
Speaking: The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has spoken out about the show’s decision to recast its non-white roles, following accusations of racial stereotypes (pictured from 2014).
In a rare interview with BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat, Matt said: ‘I think it’s great, times change, but I didn’t really have a problem with the way we were doing it. All of our actors play dozens of characters each, it was never designed to exclude anyone. ‘
When asked if he thinks the controversy raised awareness of the need for greater diversity in the writers ‘rooms, he said:’ I absolutely agree with that. And we are trying to improve it.
“Intolerance and racism remain an incredible problem and it is good to finally go for more equality and representation.”
Cast change: It was announced on Tuesday that the character of Dr. Hibbert, voiced by white actor Harry Shearer, was replaced by black actor Kevin Michael Richardson.
The show’s response in 2018 was the subject of much criticism, when, within one episode, Lisa Simpson appeared to look at the camera and say, ‘Something that started decades ago and was applauded and harmless is now politically incorrect.
‘What can you do?’
After the backlash, The Simpsons announced that they would re-cast their non-white roles.
From Old to New: The role was previously voiced by Harry (left), and will now be voiced by Kevin (right).
When asked if he regretted how they handled it, Matt said: ‘At some point, it doesn’t matter what you say. You’re going to be attacked by whoever it is, you know? Honestly, that doesn’t affect me at all.
‘We will not go out of our way to comfort the bigots. On the other hand, if you make any kind of gesture and people perceive a weakness, you will be criticized ”.
It comes after the longest-running animated series in television history was reported to join the list of titles that make casting decisions more sensitive to races.
Move on: Veteran actor Harry has voiced the character of Hibbert since the second season of The Simpsons in 1990.
The Wrap state Hibbert will now be played by 56-year-old black actor Kevin, who has lent his voice for various roles on the show before, along with Family Guy, American Dad. and countless more titles.
Harry, 77, meanwhile will continue to voice his many other characters on The Simpsons, including Mr. Burns and Smithers, Ned Flanders and Kent Brockman.
A statement from 20th Century Fox read: ‘Last night’s episode DiaryQueen featured Harry Shearer as the voice of Dr. Hibbert for the last time …
“Next Sunday’s episode of Wad Goals will have Kevin Michael Richardson voicing Dr. Hibbert, and from then on he will voice the character.”
Veteran actor Harry has voiced the character of Hibbert since the second season of The Simpsons in 1990, while Kevin has voiced various roles on the show since 2009.
In 2013, Kevin was asked if he ever felt pigeonholed by his voice, to which he said, ‘Sometimes from what I’ve done, people want similar sounds in relation to those characters. What I admire is the people who chose me for the rank …
Role change: Hank Azaria made the decision to stop voicing the Indian-American character of Apu on The Simpsons, last playing the role in 2017.
‘Knowing that I can do ups and downs and things like that, like when I was Cleveland Jr. and Barney Rubble, it’s great. Not being located in a specific area is good. It’s good to know that people are aware of what I can do. ‘
The movement to replace Harry reflects several other similar decisions from the past year, especially in light of the renewed attention paid to racial prejudice and white privilege thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Last July, Kristen Bell stopped playing the role of Molly on the Apple TV + animated series Central Park, also due to concerns about the representation.
Bell announced through social media that he would stop giving voice to the character, with a frank and sincere statement on his Instagram.
“Choosing a mixed race character with a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race and African American experience,” she wrote at the time.
‘This is a time to acknowledge our acts of complicity. Here’s one of mine. Playing the character of Molly in Central Park shows a widespread lack of awareness of my privilege, ” she also said.
Leading Role: Harry, 77, will continue to voice his many other Simpsons characters, including Mr Burns and Smithers, Ned Flanders and Kent Brockman.
Also last summer, Family Guy’s Mike Henry announced that he would stop voicing the black character Cleveland Brown.
On the other hand, Hank Azaria made the decision to stop voicing the Indian-American character of Apu on The Simpsons, playing the role for the last time in 2017.
The cast change comes after Fox made a brief statement on the matter last June: “In the future, The Simpsons will no longer have white actors playing non-white characters.”
Consummate voice actor: Kevin, 56, has played various roles on The Simpsons since 2009, along with countless other titles; seen in 2019