First Hank Azaria stepped back from voicing Indian and Black characters on The Simpsons. Now, Harry Shearer, 77, will do the same for another character on the animated Fox show: Dr. Julius Hibbert, a Black doctor who's been voiced by Shearer, a white actor, for more than 30 years. The BBC reports that voice actor Kevin Michael Richardson, who has supplied the voice for characters on American Dad! and Family Guy and made dozens of appearances on The Simpsons, will take over the role, starting with Sunday's episode. The Hollywood Reporter notes the latest move is part of the show's attempts to diversify its voice cast, making good on its pledge last year to move toward "no longer [having] white actors voice nonwhite characters."
Shearer—who'd played Dr. Hibbert since 1990, and who will still lend his voice to such popular characters as Mr. Burns, Principal Skinner, and Ned Flanders—hasn't commented yet on the latest news, though last summer he spoke with Times Radio and said he didn't necessarily agree with such decisions. Although Shearer noted that "representation" in the writing and production departments is important, "I have a very simple belief about acting. The job of the actor is to play someone who they are not. That's the gig, that’s the job description." Yahoo rounds up other reaction to the shift, with many lauding the decision (and Richardson's voice work), while others say the show has fallen victim to political correctness. "It matters. Representation matters. The change is long overdue and welcome," one commenter posted on Twitter. Another wondered: "Does this mean Bart now has to be voiced by an actual child and not an adult woman?" (Read more The Simpsons stories.)