White voice actor Harry Shearer will no longer voice Black character Dr. Hibbert on “The Simpsons,” TheWrap has learned, and is being replaced with a Black voice actor.
“Last night’s episode ‘DiaryQueen’ featured Harry Shearer as the voice of Dr. Hibbert for the last time,” “Simpsons” studio 20th Television said in a statement to TheWrap 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 had voiced the character of Hibbert since the show’s second season in 1990. He declined through a Fox representative TheWrap’s request for comment on stepping back from the role.
The recasting of Hibbert comes after Fox said last June that “The Simpsons” will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters on the animated series.
“Moving forward, ‘The Simpsons’ will no longer have white actors voice nonwhite characters,” the network said in a brief statement at the time, which came amid the resurgence of Black Lives Matter rallies in the wake of Black man George Floyd’s death in police custody.
That pledge came shortly after the announcement by “Family Guy” star Mike Henry that he would step away from the Fox sitcom as the longtime voice of the Black character Cleveland Brown.
This is not the first time “The Simpsons” has had to reckon with race in voice casting. Hank Azaria said last January that he would stop voicing the Indian American convenience-store proprietor Apu Nahasapeemapetilon after taking heavy criticism, including in a 2017 documentary titled “The Problem With Apu” by comedian Hari Kondabolu.
“My eyes have been opened,” Azaria said in an interview about the criticism at the time. “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].”