The actor who plays Dr Hibbert in 'The Simpsons' questions the show's decision to stop casting white actors as characters of color

zntim@businessinsider.com (Zac Ntim)
·3 mins read
The Simpsons voice actor Harry Shearer Dr Hibbert
The Simpsons voice actor Harry Shearer Dr Hibbert

Donato Sardella / Getty Images for Philosophy / 20th Century Fox

  • Harry Shearer, the voice of the African American character Dr Hibbert in "The Simpsons," questions the show's decision to stop white actors playing non-white characters.

  • In an interview with Times Radio, Shearer said: "The job of the actor is to play someone who they are not. That's the gig, that's the job description."

  • Producers announced in June that the long-running animated series would no longer use white actors to voice non-white characters.

  • Shearer, who has voiced several characters since the show's premiere, said that he believes people from all backgrounds should be represented "in the writing and producing ends of the business," but this should not be conflated with performance.

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Harry Shearer, the voice of African American doctor Julius Hibbert in "The Simpsons," has questioned the long-running comedy's decision to no longer use white actors to voice characters of color.

"I have a very simple belief about acting," Shearer explained during an interview with Times Radio. "The job of the actor is to play someone who they are not. That's the gig, that's the job description," he said.

Producers announced in June that the long-running animated series would no longer use white actors to voice non-white characters.

The overhaul came after white actor Hank Azaria stepped away from the role of Indian convenience shop owner Apu, a role he had voiced since the show's premier in 1989.

Hank Azaria announced he was stepping away from voicing Apu Nahasapeemapetilon in January.
Hank Azaria announced he was stepping away from voicing Apu Nahasapeemapetilon in January.

Fox/Getty/Amy Sussman

Azaria's portrayal of Apu had been a source of debate since the release of 2017 documentary, "The Problem with Apu," which saw Asian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu investigate why the character was a problematic racial stereotype.

Shearer, a 76-year-old comedy veteran, who also lends his voice to the characters Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, and Mr Burns, said that his views are not financially motivated. "We don't get paid by the voice," he said.

He added that he believes it is important for people from all backgrounds to be "represented in the writing and producing ends of the business" so that they can "help decide what stories to tell and with what knowledge," however, he warned that this should not be conflated with acting performances.

In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, sparked by the death of African American George Floyd, the entertainment industry has been under increasing pressure to provide more opportunities for non-white actors.

White actor Mike Henry, who voiced the character of Cleveland Brown in the animated series Family Guy for 20 years, stepped down. In a tweet, he wrote: "It's been an honor to play Cleveland on Family Guy for 20 years. I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color. Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role."

Comedian Jenny Slate stepped down from her role as Missy Foreman-Greenwald on the popular animated show "Big Mouth." In an open letter posted on Instagram, Slate wrote, "Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people."

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