The Simpsons has recast another character so that a white actor will no longer be playing a person of color. According to a report by Deadline, veteran voice-over artist Kevin Michael Richardson will now play Dr. Julius Hibbert, taking over the role that Harry Shearer has held for over three decades. Shearer will continue to voice other characters on the show.
Shearer is the voice of characters like Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner and Mr. Burns, but fans have long been uneasy about him providing the voice of Dr. Hibbert. Fox told reporters from Deadline that Sunday's episode, "Diary Queen," would be the last where Shearer played Hibbert. Richardson will make his debut in the role on Sunday, Feb. 28. The shift follows several similar changes in adult cartoons.
The Simpsons came under heavy fire for its representation of non-white characters with white voice actors in 2017, with the release of a documentary titled The Problem with Apu. It examined how the show had perpetuated South Asian stereotypes in its time on the air, leading actor Hank Azaria to step away from the role. creator Matt Groening has said that Apu will remain on the show, though he has yet to be recast or featured in any new episodes.
However, the recasting of Dr. Hibbert may be more analogous to the recasting of Cleveland Brown over on Family Guy. The show's most prominent Black character has been played by Mike Henry for decades, even on his spin-off series. Henry stepped down last year, and Cleveland is now played by Arif Zahir, who also has yet to debut on screen.
The phenomenon is not restricted to older cartoons, either. Last year, Netflix's Big Mouth recast the character Missy, who had previously been voiced by Jenny Slate. Ayo Edebiri took over the role for the very last episode of Season 4, giving fans a taste of what will come in the next installment.
With all of this in mind, Dr. Hibbert is in very capable hands. Richardson is a veteran of the voice-over world, with credits including Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, American Dad, F Is for Family, Bless the Harts and so on. He has even been a cast member on The Simpsons since 2009, providing various voices for the series in 76 episodes so far.
So far, Richardson has not commented publicly on his new role. He makes his Simpsons debut on Sunday, Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.