Story at a glance
- Dr. Julius Hibbert, a Black character, will finally be voiced by a Black actor after 31 years.
- Producers pledged to only have nonwhite actors voice characters of color in 2020 amid Black Lives Matter protests.
“The Simpsons,” one of the longest running animated shows of American television, will be making a major change to its voice actor lineup to improve its representation of characters of color.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that longtime character Dr. Julius Hibbert, who is Black, will be voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson beginning with the episode scheduled to air on Feb. 28. Richardson is Black as well, departing from the character’s longtime voiceover actor, Harry Shearer, who is white.
The Simpsons actor Harry Shearer to be replaced as voice of Dr Hibbert by Kevin Michael Richardson https://t.co/13vdKS3rq0— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) February 23, 2021
Multiple television showrunners spoke out about casting white actors as nonwhite characters, pledging change. “The Simpsons” issued a statement in June 2020, stating that “Moving forward, The Simpsons will no longer have white actors voice nonwhite characters.”
Other animated series have followed suit, including “Family Guy,” “Big Mouth,” and “Central Park,” who featured characters of color previously voiced by white actors.
Prior to Dr. Hibbert’s recasting, another longtime character of color, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, was recast following years of pushback against the racist stereotype the character’s portrayal upheld.
White actor Hank Azaria told the press back in January 2020 that he would be stepping down from voicing Apu. Recently, he spoke with NPR, saying that he didn’t fully grasp the problematic nature of Apu’s representation.
“The character had unintended consequences for people - kids growing up in this country, Indian and South Asian kids growing up in this country had to live with that character and be called Apu in ways they didn't appreciate,” Azaria said. “And that was a lot of my journey with that character, and it took some years to figure it out, for me.”