Several voice actors in The Simpsons recast following accusations of racism

Santa Monica, California - In 2018, a documentary about the voice actors on The Simpsons caused a storm. The pointed question was why are Black characters voiced by white actors.

Hank Azaria, a white voice actor, stepped down from his role as Apu (r.) in January 2020 (archive image).
Hank Azaria, a white voice actor, stepped down from his role as Apu (r.) in January 2020 (archive image).  © IMAGO / Everett Collection

The documentary The Problem With Apu revolved around the Indian shopkeeper Apu from The Simpsons universe.

The character was originally voiced by Hank Azaria (56), who is white and put on a stereotypical Indian accent. Critics felt that his performance only served to reinforce harmful racial tropes . After the accusations, the creator of the series, Matt Groening (67), initially defended the retention of white speakers for non-white characters.

That slowly began to change in January 2020, when Hank Azaria voluntarily stepped down from the role of Apu, as he told industry magazine SlashFilm. Azaria will continue to voice bartender Moe and police chief Wiggum.

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Ever since, the characters under the spotlight have been recast one by one. Now, the original voice actor for Dr. Hibbert, Harry Shearer (77), will be replaced by the Black actor Kevin Michael Richardson (56).

Shearer won't be leaving the series altogether. He will still play his other well-established roles, including that of Mister Burns, Ned Flanders, and Principal Skinner.

The original voice of Dr. Hibbert will be replaced

The Simpsons creator Matt Groening acknowledges need for change

Matt Groening (67, c.), creator of The Simpsons, says it's time for a change in the industry (archive image).
Matt Groening (67, c.), creator of The Simpsons, says it's time for a change in the industry (archive image).  © IMAGO / UPI Photo

In one of his rare interviews, Matt Groening spoke to the BBC about the situation, stating that "times change."

He never had a problem with the way the speaking roles were handled, and he made it clear that he never intentionally wanted to exclude anyone, as most voice actors were responsible for multiple characters.

At the same time, he acknowledged that change was needed, not just on The Simpsons but in the industry as a whole.

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He promised to do better in the future: "Bigotry and racism are still an incredible problem and it's good to finally go for more equality and representation."

The Simpsons is still going strong after 32 seasons

Matt Groening is not thinking about quitting any time soon. He has repeatedly insisted that he still enjoys his work, and retirement is a long way off.

Cover photo: IMAGO / Everett Collection

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