For over three decades, Harry Shearer has voiced the hilarious and often bumbling Dr. Julius Hibbert on the animated comedy The Simpsons. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, and with television studios placing an increased focus diversity, however, Fox Television (owned by Disney) has recast the role, wishing to give a Black voice actor an opportunity to play the Black character.
With Shearer stepping down from voicing Dr. Hibbert — one of the many characters that he portrays on The Simpsons — Kevin Michael Richardson will take over the role. Richardson is a seasoned voice actor who has given his voice to numerous animated series, including Family Guy and American Dad. Since 2009, he has also lent his voice to The Simpsons, so he is no stranger to Homer, Marge, and the Springfield residents.
Shearer has also voiced several iconic characters on The Simpsons, including Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Lenny, Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, and others. He will continue to portray other personalities on the series following this transition.
This past Sunday’s episode, “Diary Queen” — where Mrs. Krabappel was given an honorable remembrance — was the last time that Shearer provided Hibbert’s voice. Richardson will debut his version of the jolly doctor during this Sunday’s episode, “Wad Goals.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time The Simpsons has made adjustments due to ongoing conversations about diversity and inclusion. Back in 2018, voice actor Hank Azaria retired Apu Nahasapeemapetilon after criticism that the Indian character was offensive to South Asian cultures. While Apu is no longer voiced by Azaria, he is still part of The Simpsons. Carl Carlson, Homer’s coworker who was also voiced by Azaria, was replaced by Alex Desert at the beginning of season 32 as well.
As diversity and inclusion continues to bloom in the entertainment industry, improvements are being made so that underrepresented groups can have equal representation in performances. The Simpsons is one show clearly making an effort to address and eliminate systemic injustices through its casting choices.