The Simpsons has evolved in some pretty significant ways over the course of its over thirty years on our TV screens, with the show gradually reflecting the ever-changing nature of society and pop culture. One of the most significant changes has been a confirmation that the series will no longer have white actors voicing non-white characters, the effects of which have started to be seen within the show. The latest case of this will apply to Dr. Julius Hibbert, who has previously been voiced by Harry Shearer on the show since 1990. As The Wrap confirmed on Monday, Shearer will no longer be voicing Dr. Hibbert, with the role instead being performed by prolific voice actor Kevin Michael Richardson.
"Last night's episode 'Diary Queen' featured Harry Shearer as the voice of Dr. Hibbert for the last time," 20th Television said in a statement. "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 previously spoke about the show's decision regarding non-white characters last year, arguing for voice acting to allow people to portray "someone who they're not."
"I have a very simple belief about acting," Shearer shared with Times Radio late last year. "The job of the actor is to play someone who they're not."
"I think there's a conflation between representation, which is important," Shearer continued. "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."
This is the second instance this season of a Black voice actor being brought on to voice a Black character, with Alex Désert taking over for Hank Azaria as the voice of long-running supporting character Carl Carlson in the Season 32 premiere. Last year, The Simpsons confirmed that it would be scaling back appearances of Apu (who was also voiced by Azaria), after years of backlash from fans, some of which were spotlighted in Hari Kondabolu's 2017 documentary The Problem with Apu.
"I think it's really important when people express themselves about racial issues, what they feel is unfair or upsetting or distressing or makes them angry, sad or hurt," Azaria said in a 2018 interview. "The most important thing to do is listen, try to understand, try to sympathize, which is what I'm doing. I know that The Simpsons guys are doing that too; they're giving it a lot of thought, and we've discussed a little bit. They will definitely address — maybe publicly, certainly creatively within the context of the show — what they want to do, if anything, with the character."
What do you think of The Simpsons bringing in a new voice actor for Dr. Hibbert? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!