Dr. Hibbert, one of black characters on the long-running animated show, will now be voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson, who has appeared as other characters in more than 70 episodes of the series.
“The Simpsons” has made another concrete move after it vowed to stop using white actors to voice non-white characters. On Tuesday, February 23, the long-running FOX series announced that it replaced Harry Shearer, the original voice actor for Dr. Julius Hibbert.
PEOPLE reported that Dr. Hibbert, one of black characters on the animated show, will now be voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson. Shearer has played Hibbert as well as several other characters on the show for more than 30 years. Shearer-voiced Hibbert will be featured for the final time in the Sunday episode titled “Dairy Queen”.
While Shearer will no longer voice Dr. Hibbert, he will continue provide voice for other “The Simpsons” characters including Mr. Burns, Principal Skinner, Waylon Smithers and Ned Flanders. As for Richardson, it is said that he will start taking over the character for the first time in upcoming episode titled “Wad Goals”. Prior to this, Richardson appeared as other characters in more than 70 episodes of the series.
FOX announced back in June 2020 that the show would stop using white actors to voice non-white characters. “Moving forward, ‘The Simpsons’ will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters,” affirmed the producers in the statement.
Of the decision, Shearer previously voiced his disagreement. “I have a very simple belief about acting. The job of the actor is to play someone who they are not,” the 77-year-old shared during his appearance on “Times Radio” at the time. “That’s the gig, that’s the job description.”
FOX’s announcement arrived in the wake of criticism by stand-up comedian Hari Kondabolu towards the show for having Hank Azaria, a white voice actor, to take on the role of Indian shop clerk Apu Nahasapeemapetilon through a 2018 documentary titled “The Problem with Apu”. Kondabulu said that the character is based on hurtful stereotypes. “Everything with Apu is like this running joke,” he told the New York Times. “And the running joke is that he’s Indian.”
Azaria eventually stepped away from his role as Apu following the backlash and exited the show altogether. He also revealed that he wouldn’t “be doing the voice anymore, unless there’s some way to transition it or something. We all made the decision together… We all agreed on it. We all feel like it’s the right thing and good about it.” Additionally, “The Simpsons” replaced Azaria with Alex Desert to voice Carlton Carlson on the show.