The Simpsons is replacing the actor behind the character of Dr. Hibbert on the show, a role previously voiced by white actor Harry Shearer.
The longest-running animated series in television history is again joining the list of titles making more racially sensitive casting decisions.
As reported by The Wrap, Hibbert will now be voiced by black actor Kevin Michael Richardson, who has provided vocals for several roles in the show before, along with Family Guy, American Dad! and countless other titles.
Harry meanwhile will continue to voice his many other characters on The Simpsons, including Mr Burns and Smithers, Ned Flanders and Kent Brockman.
Moves forward: The Simpsons is making more racially sensitive casting decisions: The show is replacing the actor behind the character of Dr. Hibbert
A statement from 20th Century Fox read: ‘Last night’s episode DiaryQueen featured Harry Shearer as the voice of Dr. Hibbert for the last time…
‘Next Sunday’s episode Wad Goals will have Kevin Michael Richardson voicing Dr. Hibbert — and from there on out he will voice the character.’
In 2013, Kevin was asked if he ever feels that he is typecast because of his voice, to which he said: ‘Sometimes, from what I’ve done, people want similar sounds relative to those characters. What I admire are people who cast me for range…
‘Knowing that I can do highs and lows and stuff like that, like when I was Cleveland Jr. and Barney Rubble, that’s pretty cool. To not be set in one specific area is nice. It’s nice to know that people are aware of what I can do.’
From the old to the new: The role was previously voiced by white actor Harry Shearer (left), and will now be voiced by black actor Kevin Michael Richardson (right)
The move to replace Harry mirrors several other similar decisions in the past year, especially in light of renewed attention paid to racial biases and white privilege thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Last July, Kristen Bell stepped down from playing the role of Molly on the Apple TV+ animated series Central Park, also stemming from concerns over representation.
Bell announced via social media that she was stepping down from voicing the character, with a frank and candid statement on her Instagram.
‘Casting a mixed race character with a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race and Black American experience,’ she wrote at the time.
‘This is a time to acknowledge our acts of complicity. Here is one of mine. Playing the character of Molly on Central Park shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege,’ she also said.
Representation matters: The move mirrors several other similar decisions in the past year, especially in light of renewed attention paid to racial biases and white privilege thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement
Also last summer, Family Guy’s Mike Henry announced he was stepping away from voicing the black character Cleveland Brown.
And of course, Hank Azaria made the decision to stop voicing the Indian-American character of Apu on The Simpsons, last playing the role in 2017.
Veteran actor Shearer, 77, had provided his voice to the character of Hibbert since The Simpsons’ second season way back in 1990.
Richardson, 56, has been voicing various roles on the show since 2009.
The casting move comes after Fox made a brief statement on the matter last June: ‘Moving forward, The Simpsons will no longer have white actors voice nonwhite characters.’
Accomplished voice performer: Richardson, 56, has been voicing various roles on The Simpsons since 2009, along with countless other titles; seen in 2019