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'The Simpsons': Harry Shearer Defends Voicing Non-White Characters

'The Simpsons' Cast: Harry Shearer On Voicing Non-White Characters
August 4, 2020 - 23:59 / Lucas Anderson

The Simpsons cast member Harry Shearer has addressed the debate on white actors voicing animated characters of colour. The voice actor, with The Simpsons since season 1, offered a critical statement on the topic in an interview on Tuesday. Shearer's best-known voices include "Mr. Burns" and "Ned Flanders," but he's also provided the voice of "Dr. Hibbert," a black character on the show.

Harry Shearer has weighed in on the decision to end white actors voicing characters of colour on The Simpsons.

The long-running animated comedy announced its intention to end the practice in June. But now, Shearer has responded critically to the development, which means he'll step away from the role of "Dr. Hibbert" — the Springfield family physician who is black.

Simpsons cast: Harry Shearer addresses non-white voice roles

Shearer, known for iconic voices such as "Mr. Burns" and "Ned Flanders," shared his perspective during a Tuesday interview with The Times.

His view on the topic: "I have a very simple belief about acting. The job of the actor is to play someone who they are not. That's the gig, that's the job description," he said. The 76-year-old then added that he frequently has little in common with most characters he plays, but he still voices them all nonetheless.

'The Simpsons': Harry Shearer Speaks Out On Voicing Non-White Characters

Shearer, also known for his role in Spinal Tap, added that stepping aside from "Dr. Hibbert" doesn't affect him much because Simpsons actors "don't get paid by the voice."

The Simpsons voice cast responds to characters of colour debate

Shearer's opinion embraces a more resistant point of view than fellow cast member Hank Azaria, who was originally at the centre of the characters of colour debate as the voice of "Apu."

In January 2020, Azaria confirmed that he would no longer voice Indian American character "Apu" after controversy surrounding the character's relationship to racial stereotypes. "I wanted to spread laughter and joy with this character, and the idea that it's brought pain and suffering in any way, that it was used to marginalize people, it's upsetting," Azaria said at the time.

Fox then confirmed on June 28 that The Simpsons would move to no longer have characters of colour voiced by white actors. Similar decisions followed on animated programs including The Cleveland ShowBig Mouth, and Central Park.