Harry Shearer might be leaving The Simpsons, but the (many) characters he voiced will live on. "I’d be lying if I said it was no loss. ... But I also have to say that I’d be lying if I said he was irreplaceable. I think that he could be replaced, and if need be, will have to be. We’re not going to get rid of the characters," Simpsons executive producer Al Jean tells Entertainment Weekly. "My two favorite characters that he does are Burns—he’s such a terrific villain—and Flanders, because he’s such a wonderful, sweet counterpoint to Homer. Those are the ones I would certainly be the most careful in replacing. But I would very careful with all of them."
Jean adds that the show would love for Shearer to change his mind and return. Should that not happen, they don't know yet who might replace him, but "we’d probably have several. ... There’s no reason that all those characters need to be voiced by one person." (Or maybe they could still be: The BBC talked to a guy who can impersonate many of Shearer's characters' voices; watch a video of him in the gallery.) As for the problem, Shearer has so far refused to sign the contract the rest of the cast signed, and Jean says that contract won't change, but that producers will reach out to Shearer to try and resolve things. "He said it wasn’t about money, and I don’t think it is either," Jean says. "I really don’t know what the issue is here. That’s what’s confusing." (Click to read about 20 iconic roles that were almost cast very differently.)