Following ‘The Simpsons’ show producer announcement in June, white voice actors will no longer voice for non-white characters in award-winning animated series. This approval of changes was made within a panel discussion according to CNN.
Multi-versed voice actor Harry Shearer shares the skepticism of new regulation during an interview with the Times Radio. Shearer is well-known for writing Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) and voice acting for many of The Simpsons characters including African American doctor Julius Hibbert.
Shearer shared his simple belief stance on voice acting in regards to actors playing characters not associated with their race via CNN, “That’s the gig. That’s the job description.”
The Simpsons voice acting staff was first challenged by comedian Hari Kondabolu’s 2017 documentary, where the South Asian Apu Nahasapeemapetilon was portrayed as negative and stereotypical. Nahasapeemapetilon’s behind-the-scene white voice actor, Hank Azaria announced in January to withdrawal himself from voicing the character.
“Once I realized that that was the way this character was thought of, I just didn’t want to participate in it anymore,” Azaria shared to the New York Times, “It just didn’t feel right.”
In response to Azaria’s decision to stop voicing for the South Asian character, Comedian Hari Kondabolu’s shared his thoughts on the choice via Twitter:
If @HankAzaria is indeed no longer doing the voice of Apu, I do hope they keep the character & let a very talented writing staff do something interesting with him. If not to better the show, then to atleast spare me some death threats.
— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) January 17, 2020
But Kondabolu also shared his intention on his commentary of Nahasapeemapetilon’s voice acting in the documentary via Twitter, “My documentary ‘The Problem with Apu’ was not made to get rid of a dated cartoon character, but to discuss race, representation & my community (which I love very much),” Kondabolu said, “It was also about how you can love something (like the Simpsons) & still be critical about aspects of it (Apu).”
Similar to Azaria’s voice acting role in The Simpsons, Shearer is a voice representative of many character roles like the non-white character Julius Hibbert and the show producers’ decision has influenced Shearer to share his open opinion on the recent changes:
“I think there’s a conflation between representation, which is important — 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 — and performance,” said Shearer to CNN.