“The Simpsons” has officially recast the voice actor behind one of its black characters with the original voice of cast member Harry Shearer.
The jovial Springfield physician Dr. Julius Hibbert will no longer have the voice of Shearer in the future after the Fox series announced in June that it will no longer have its black characters played by white actors. Shearer has played Hibbert and several other characters on the show for more than 30 years.
According to People, Hibbert will now be played by Kevin Michael Richardson, who has already appeared as other characters in more than 70 episodes of the show. The final episode of Shearer voiced by Hibbert will be on Sunday’s episode titled “Dairy Queen.” Richardson will reportedly take the reins for the first time as Hibbert in the upcoming episode titled “Wad Goals.”
Representatives for “The Simpsons” did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
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Although Shearer will no longer play Hibbert, he will continue to be the announcer behind other beloved characters from “The Simpsons” such as Mr. Burns, director Skinner, Waylon Smithers and Ned Flanders.
Shearer explained earlier in August that he does not necessarily agree with the decision to recast the show’s black characters in the wake of widespread criticism and renewed casting attention sparked by last summer’s protests over racial inequality.
“I have a very simple belief about acting. The actor’s job is to play someone he’s not,” Shearer, 77, told Times Radio at the time (via The Daily Mail).
He added, “That’s the job, that’s the job description.”
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Shearer added that while he will no longer voice the role of Dr. Hibbert, his career will not be seriously affected by the news.
“They don’t pay us for the voice,” he told the outlet.
The decision to rethink the way he expresses the black characters of Springfield came months after “The Simpsons” voice actor Hank Azaria confirmed that he would stop playing the character of Apu after a backlash over his interpretation of Indian and South Asian people. The decision was largely prompted by the critical documentary “The Problem with Apu.”
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Since then, other animated shows have followed suit, with Mike Henry, who previously voiced Cleveland Brown for two decades on “Family Guy” and the subsequent spin-off “The Cleveland Show,” renouncing the character’s voice.
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Meanwhile, Kristen Bell walked away from her character on the AppleTV + animated series “Central Park” shortly before Jenny Slate made the same decision about her character, Missy, on Netflix’s “Big Mouth.”