The Simpsons has been a cultural institution for decades now, which means that the long-running series has grown and evolved in quite a lot of ways. This includes a promise from the series' creative team to no longer have white actors voice non-white characters, a change that was announced earlier this summer amid conversations of social justice and Black representation in media. Fans will begin to see the start of this change in the series' upcoming Season 32 premiere, particularly with regards to long-running supporting character Carl Carlson. According to Variety, this Sunday's season premiere will see Alex Désert voicing Carl, taking over the role from Hank Azaria for at least that episode.
Désert is known for his role as Julio Mendez in both television iterations of The Flash, as well as appearances on Better Things, Grey's Anatomy, and Becker. He previously voiced Nick Fury on The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and Swarm on Spider-Man: Maximum Venom.
While it is unclear if Désert will be voicing Carl in the long-term future of the show, the casting change does signify a new era of sorts for The Simpsons. The character - an employee at Springfield's nuclear power plant, and a friend of Homer Simpson and Lenny Leonard - has been voiced by Azaria almost entirely since the show's inception. (His very first appearance, in the Season 1 episode "Homer's Night Out", was voiced by Harry Shearer.)
Variety also confirms that another Black character on The Simpsons - Dr. Julius Hibbert - does appear in the episode, but does not have a speaking role. It is unclear at this point what the long-term future of characters like Carl and Dr. Hibbert will be on the show. Earlier this 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.
“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 Carl? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!