Who will voice Dr Hibbert on 'The Simpsons' now? Harry Shearer to stop voicing Black doctor after 30 years
In the past, Shearer has shared his disdain over the recast of White actors who have voiced POC roles. 'I have a very simple belief about acting. The job of the actor is to play someone who they’re not,' he said last year
On Monday, February 22, it was reported that after over 30 years of voicing Dr. Julius Hibbert, a Black character on ‘The Simpsons’, Harry Shearer, a White voice actor, is stepping away from the role. A representative at Fox said that Shearer’s portrayal of the Black character during the show’s season 32 episode ‘Diary Queen’ was his last.
Dr. Hibbert is the most prominent doctor in Springfield, where the show is set. While more competent than the average Springfield citizen, he has a tendency to laugh or chuckle at inappropriate moments, such as delivering bad news to a patient. Hibbert’s character first made an appearance in ‘Bart the Daredevil’, the eighth episode of Season 2 of ‘The Simpsons’, which aired on December 6, 1990.
Who will now voice Dr. Hibbert?
As per Vulture, starting with the February 28 episode ‘Wad Goals’, Kevin Michael Richardson will take over the role of Dr. Hibbert permanently. Richardson provided the voice of a Nigerian king on ‘The Simpsons’ episode ‘The Princess Guide’ in 2015.
The 56-year-old American voice, film, and television actor has also voiced characters on Seth MacFarlane's shows ‘Family Guy’, ‘The Cleveland Show’, and ‘American Dad!’. He received two Daytime Emmy Award nominations for voicing the Joker in ‘The Batman’, the Warner Bros. animated series.
Shearer’s views on voicing people of color
The 77-year-old American actor, voice actor, and comedian joined the cast of the animated sitcom in 1989. Aside from Dr. Hibbert, he has provided voices for other characters including Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Principal Skinner, Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy, Kent Brockman, and more.
In the past, Shearer has shared his disdain over the recast of White actors who have voiced POC roles, a trend that has become much more prominent since 2020. In June 2020, it was announced that Kristen Bell will no longer voice the mixed-race central character of Molly Tillerman in the Apple TV+ animated series ‘Central Park’. Jenny Slate also relinquished the role of Missy, a biracial character on Netflix's ‘Big Mouth’. She will now be voiced by comedian Ayo Edebiri.
In June 2020, the producers of ‘The Simpsons’ announced that they will no longer use White actors to play characters of color on the long-running animated series. "Moving forward, The Simpsons will no longer have White actors voice non-White characters," the show said in a statement. But Shearer did not like the decision. “I have a very simple belief about acting. The job of the actor is to play someone who they’re not,” Shearer told Times Radio in an interview last year. “That’s the job description.”
“I think there is 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 decide what stories to tell and what knowledge -- and performance,” he said. “The performance, as I say, the job is playing the part of someone you’re not.”
‘The Simpsons’ for years resisted having a South Asian actor take over the role of Apu -- a stereotypical Indian character -- from Hank Azaria, a White actor. In fact, the character was the subject of ‘The Problem With Apu’, a 2017 documentary by comedian Hari Kondabolu. Azaria said last year: “I started thinking, if that character were the only representation of Jewish people in American culture for 20 years, which was the case with Apu, I might not love that.”