The white actor behind the voice of the Simpsons character, Dr. Hibbert, has been replaced by a black performer.
Harry Shearer, who also plays other characters in the series including Ned Flanders and Principal Skinner, is handing over the role after more than 30 years to Kevin Michael Richardson, the Fox Network has said.
The broadcaster announced in June 2020 that it stop using white actors to express non-white characters, Hank Azaria having confirmed earlier in the year that he no longer express the character of the Indian trader Apu.
The latest episode of Shearer as The Simpsons’ Chuckling Doctor, which is black, aired in the US this week
Richardson, best known for his work on other Family Guy animated series, The Cleveland Show and American Dad, will debut in the upcoming Season 32 episode Wad Goals, Fox said.
The Simpsons, airing since 1989, have been criticized for years by Azaria for voicing Apu. In 2017, a documentary called The Problem With Apu raised questions about the portrayal of the Kwik-E-Mart owner’s show.
“We all think it’s the right thing and it’s good,” Azaria said when he announced he was stepping down.
Groening later told BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat that the voice setup, where the actors played “dozens of characters each … was never designed to exclude anyone.”
He went on to say that “times are changing” and that “bigotry and racism are still an incredible problem and it is good to finally move towards more equality and representation”.
Other animated shows have also seen white stars quit non-white roles in recent months.
Mike Henry, a white actor, announced in 2020 that he was stepping down from the voice of Family Guy character Cleveland Brown, while Frozen star Kristen Bell said she would no longer lend her voice to a non-white character. in the comedy Apple TV + Central Park.
In a statement posted to social media at the time, Bell said playing the character of Molly Tillerman in Central Park showed “a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege.”
She wrote: “Casting a mixed race character with a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race and the black American experience.
“It was wrong and we in the Central Park team are committed to fixing it.”