The Simpsons announced last summer that the show was in for a casting shakeup, as white actors would no longer be voicing characters of color on the show, including characters like Apu, Carl, and Dr. Hibbert. The new Dr. Julius Hibbert has been cast, according to Deadline; Kevin Michael Richardson will play the character moving forward, replacing actor Harry Shearer for the role. He’ll take over the role starting with the episode scheduled to air on Sunday, February 28, 2021.
Richardson is a veteran voice actor with over 30 years and over 500 credits to his name. He’s voiced characters in the DC and Marvel universes, as well as Star Wars, Transformers, Mortal Kombat, Family Guy, and many others. He also has 76 episodes of the Simpsons under his belt, going back as far as 2009.
Actor Harry Shearer began voicing Dr. Hibbert when he debuted over 30 years ago, and also plays–and will continue to play–other primary characters including Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, and Mr. Burns. Shearer’s last episode voicing Hibbert aired last night, February 21.
Representation in the casting of voice actors, especially on the Simpsons, began receiving more attention at least as far back as 2017, with the release of the documentary “The Problem with Apu.” Though creator Matt Groening was initially dismissive of the criticism–the Simpsons even stoked the flames of the controversy with an episode poking fun at it in 2018–the movement began to pick up steam. Since then, white actors have stepped away from playing characters of color in animated shows from Family Guy’s Cleveland Brown to characters on more recent shows, like Big Mouth character Missy.
On the Simpsons in particular, Hank Azaria has already stepped down from voicing Indian character Apu, though Fox has not yet announced new casting for the role. Another Azaria-voiced character, Carl, is now voiced by Alex Désert. Azaria also continues to voice characters like Moe, Chief Wiggam, and Super Nintendo Chalmers.
Actor Harry Shearer voiced dissent last August, stating that “the job of the actor is to play someone who they’re not,” but added that “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.”