In its latest bid to diversify its voice cast, “The Simpsons” has recast the actor voicing Dr. Julius Hibbert.
Kevin Michael Richardson will take over the role, voiced by veteran actor Harry Shearer since the Black character’s Season 2 inception, in future episodes, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Richardson, who has voiced various characters across more than 70 episodes of “The Simpsons” since 2009, has also voiced characters on other animated series, including “Family Guy,” “American Dad” and “Bless the Harts.” His debut as Hibbert is slated for “Wad Goals,” the Season 32 episode of the series scheduled to air Sunday.
Shearer, a white actor and member of the long-running animated series’ core cast, also voices prominent Springfield residents Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, Waylon Smithers and Mr. Burns, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
According to the Times, nationwide racial-justice protests in response to the May 2020 killing of George Floyd and police violence against Black Americans prompted the animation industry to re-evaluate its practice of casting white actors to voice non-white characters.
In turn, actors including Jenny Slate, Kristen Bell and Mike Henry announced in June that they were stepping down from playing Black characters on “Big Mouth,” “Central Park” and “Family Guy,” respectively, so that the roles could be recast with Black actors, the Times reported.
Meanwhile, “The Simpsons” also announced during that time its commitment to diversifying its voice talent, pointing to longtime cast member Hank Azaria’s decision, after years of criticism of the show’s “stereotypical depiction of the immigrant Indian character,” to no longer voice the character of convenience store owner Apu.
Other “Simpsons” characters, such as Homer Simpson’s co-worker, Carl, who was previously voiced by Azaria, have also been recast. Alex Desert took on the role of Carl, while Jenny Yokobori took over the role of Kumiko Albertson, previously voiced by Tress MacNeille, according to The Hollywood Reporter.