UPDATE, 6 AM: The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean just issued a statement confirming that original voice cast member Harry Shearer is leaving the show. “Harry Shearer was offered the same deal the rest of the cast accepted, and passed,” Jean said in a statement released by series producer 20th Century Fox TV. “The show will go on and we wish him well. Maggie took it hard.” He indicated that the characters voiced by Shearer, including Burns and Flanders, won’t be killed off, but the roles will be recast.
PREVIOUS, THURSDAY AM: When Fox recently renewed The Simpsons for two more seasons, producing studio 20th Century Fox TV had the cast on board with deals except for one member, Harry Shearer. The show has been doing recording sessions without him. Shearer has been holding out in the contract negotiations, with the stalemate recently escalating, and Shearer tweeting late Wednesday night that he would be leaving the show. “From (Simpsons executive producer) James L. Brooks’ lawyer: ‘Show will go on, Harry will not be part of it, wish him the best,'” Shearer wrote, adding, “This because I wanted what we’ve always had: the freedom to do other work. Of course, I wish him the very best.”
The 70-year-old actor, whose satirical Le Show runs on many public radio stations, is known for marching to a drum perhaps only he can hear, and for being something of a rebel. He was the most vocal Simpsons voice cast member during the 2011 contract dispute when he was insisting on getting a piece of the animated juggernaut’s highly lucrative back-end whose value flexed its muscles in a big way with the 2013 $1 billion off-network syndication deal at FX. I hear that didn’t happen but the actors got bonuses and piece of merchandising revenue. I hear this time, it was recording schedule that had become the main sticking point. Shearer had been doing voice work remotely. I hear the studio had asked him to commit to a schedule, which he would not agree to.
The latest dispute and possible Shearer departure comes on the heel of the actor winning his first Emmy for The Simpsons last August. In his trademark sardonic style, he wrote about the win, “I want to thank the Academy, for this incredible honor, and for the impeccable timing.” Asked to elaborate on the “impeccable timing part,” he said, “25 years. And getting it while I’m starring in a play in London’s West End.”
Shearer was the only member of The Simpsons‘ primary voice cast to not have won an Emmy. He has been on the show for 25 years, voicing a slew of characters, including Mr. Burns.