The Simpsons Actor Weighs in on Show's Decision to Stop Using White Actors for Nonwhite Characters

the simpsons dr julius hibbert harry shearer
(Photo: FOX)

In hopes of providing more opportunities for people of color and in hopes of offering more authentic representations of people from all backgrounds, The Simpsons will stop having white performers voice nonwhite characters, with actor Harry Shearer recently voicing his disappointment with the new directive. From his perspective, an actor's job is to "play someone they're not" and, while he supports the series becoming more inclusive in all facets of production, noted that the existence of the opportunity is based on the idea of bringing a character to life that isn't actually him. Shearer voices Julius Hibbert on the series, who will seemingly be voiced by a different performer in the future, in addition to Ned Flanders, Montgomery Burns, and Wayland Smithers.

“I have a very simple belief about acting,” Shearer shared with Times Radio. “The job of the actor is to play someone who they’re not.”

Not everyone agrees with him on the matter, as Hank Azaria announced earlier this year that he would no longer be voicing Apu Nahasapeemapetilon following the 2017 documentary The Problem with Apu, which sparked conversations not only about the character conveying a number of stereotypes about South Asian characters but also the fact that he was voiced by a white performer.

“I think there’s a conflation between representation, which is important,” Shearer detailed regarding his thoughts on representation. “People from all backgrounds should be represented in the writing and producing ends of the business so they help decide what stories to tell and with what knowledge."

He added, "The job is playing someone I’m not.”

Shearer also made sure to point out that another actor taking over the role of Hibbert won't have a direct impact on him, confirming, "We don’t get paid by the voice.”

The announcement was made this past June about shifting performing duties, as the series released the statement, “Moving forward, The Simpsons will no longer have hite actors voice nonwhite characters."

The Simpsons isn't the only series that is seeing some changes, as actor Mike Henry revealed earlier this year that he was leaving the role of Cleveland Brown on Family Guy in hopes of opening up an opportunity for a Black actor to take on the role. While the series has already concluded, BoJack Horseman actress Alison Brie voiced her regrets earlier this year for accepting the role of Diane Nguyen.

“In hindsight, I wish that I didn’t voice the character of Diane Nguyen. I now understand that people of color, should always voice people of color,” Brie shared in a statement. “We missed a great opportunity to represent the Vietnamese-American community accurately and respectfully, and for that I am truly sorry. I applaud all those who stepped away from their voiceover roles in recent days. I have learned a lot from them."

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