Back in June, The Simpsons producers announced that white actors would stop playing people of color in an effort to diversify its voice cast. As Vulture points out, Sunday’s episode, titled “Diary Queen”, marked the last time Harry Shearer voiced the character of Dr. Julius Hibbert, who is Black.
Going forward, Kevin Michael Richardson will take over the role. Richardson has worked on more than 70 Simpsons episodes in the past. He has also voiced characters on Family Guy, American Dad, and SpongeBob SquarePants. His casting on The Simpsons is the latest in a string of moves made by the show’s producers. Alex Désert was brought on to voice Homer’s co-worker Carl Carlson (previously played by Hank Azaria), and Jenny Yokobori was cast as wife of Comic Book Guy Kumiko Albertson (previously voiced by Tress MacNeille).
Shearer revealed his displeasure with these decisions in an August interview with Times Radio. “I have a very simple belief about acting,” he said at the time. “The job of the actor is to play someone who they are not. That’s the gig, that’s the job description.” Vulture reports Shearer declined to comment on the recasting.
Long before the widespread social and racial justice protests last summer, The Simpsons had received criticism over the lack of diversity in its voice cast. For years, the series faced calls for a South Asian actor to take over the role of Apu from Azaria.
Comedian Hari Kondabolu tackled the subject in his 2017 documentary The Problem With Apu. Azaria responded in January 2020 by stating he wouldn’t be voicing the character ever again.
Family Guy, Big Mouth, and Central Park are among the other animated shows to have recast Black characters previously voiced by white actors in response to the national conversation around race in America.