“The Simpsons” announced in June that white actors would no longer voice non-white characters, but cast member Harry Shearer appears to have a different standpoint.
“I have a very simple belief about acting,” Shearer, 76, said during an interview with Times Radio Monday. “The job of the actor is to play someone who they’re not. That’s the gig. That’s the job description.”
Shearer has voiced various characters in the fictional town of Springfield over the last three decades, including Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Principal Skinner, Ned Flanders, Kent Brockman, Rev. Lovejoy and Dr. Hibbert, a prominent Black doctor.
“I’m not a rich nuclear plant owner. I’m not a Bible-believing Christian that lives next to Homer (Simpson),” Shearer said, referring to his characters Mr. Burns and Flanders, respectively. “I’m not any of those people.”
‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Family Guy’: White actors step down from non-white cartoon roles
Shearer said it’s a part of his performance, which he said is different than representation.
“I think there’s a conflation between representation, which is important. 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,” Shearer said. “Performance … is playing the part you are not.”
Despite sharing his opinion, Shearer stopped short of calling “The Simpsons” casting move a “mistake.” When asked by radio host Matt Chorley, Shearer responded: “I’m not opining publicly on the matter. I mean, frankly, we don’t get paid by the voice.”
In 2014, Shearer won a Primetime Emmy for outstanding character voice-over performance for his work on “The Simpsons” episode “Four Regrettings and a Funeral.”
It’s not clear who will voice Dr. Hibbert moving forward. USA TODAY reached out to Fox for comment.
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“The Simpsons,” along with the animated series “Family Guy,” “Big Mouth” and “Central Park,” has been reexamining which actors should voice non-white role following the reemergence of the Black Lives Matter movement and nationwide anti-racism protests.
“The Simpsons” June casting announcement comes months after Hank Azaria stepped down as the beloved yet divisive Apu, a character criticized as promoting negative stereotypes about Indians.
Like Shearer, Azaria has voiced multiple “Simpsons” characters, including Moe Szyslak and Chief Wiggum, but Azaria has become synonymous with Apu, an Indian immigrant who owns the Kwik-E-Mart convenience store and is best known for his catchphrase, “Thank you, come again.”
“Once I realized that that was the way this character was thought of, I just didn’t want to participate in it anymore,” Azaria told The New York Times in February. “It just didn’t feel right.”
Contributing: Charles Trepany
‘It just didn’t feel right’:Why Hank Azaria won’t voice ‘The Simpsons’ controversial Apu