'Simpsons' star Harry Shearer will no longer voice Black character Dr. Julius Hibbert

Ethan Alter
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 28: Actor and voice of multiple characters Harry Shearer attends
Harry Shearer attends a 30th anniversary panel for 'The Simpsons' at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

Harry Shearer is the latest original Simpsons cast member to retire a role. The Feb. 21 episode of the long-running Fox animated series featured the actor's final vocal performance as Dr. Julius Hibbert, one of the show's most prominent Black characters. But Springfield's citizens will still be able to visit the good doctor for his dubious medical advice — and plentiful lollipops. As originally reported by Vulture, Dr. Hibbert will be voiced by veteran voiceover artist Kevin Michael Richardson, starting with the Feb. 28 episode. Richardson has voiced multiple supporting characters on The Simpsons since 2009, and his other credits include Teen Titans Go! and Family Guy, as well as the upcoming series Invincible and Masters of the Universe: Revelation.

It's the latest casting change since The Simpsons producers first announced over the summer that white actors would no longer be voicing the various characters of color populating Springfield. Hank Azaria was the first to step aside, retiring the role of Indian convenience store owner Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, followed by Homer's Black co-worker and friend Carl Carlson. (Carl is currently voiced by Alex Désert; Apu has not yet been recast, but Simpsons creator Matt Groening has said the character will remain on the show.) More recently, Jenny Yokobori replaced Tress MacNeille as Kumiko Albertson, the Japanese manga fan married to the ultra-cynical Comic Book Guy.

Speaking with Yahoo Entertainment last year, Azaria's co-star, Yeardley Smith, discussed his decision to retire from voicing Apu — a choice that predated the producers' move to recast all of the show's characters of color. "I know that he has taken the decision really seriously, and he really, really wanted to end up on the right side of the argument and do something that he personally could live with and be proud of," she remarked. "We all really love Apu, and we meant no harm, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t cause any harm."

Shearer initially had a different take on The Simpsons casting shake-up. During an interview with Times Radio in the U.K. in August, the star of This Is Spinal Tap said: "I have a very simple belief about acting. The job of the actor is to play someone who they're not. That's the gig. That's the job description. 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. The job is playing someone I'm not."

Shearer has yet to comment on the casting change, but many fans on Twitter are applauding the news. On the other hand, some are still struggling to adjust to Springfield's new, more diverse reality.

The Simpsons airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Fox.

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