The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has spoken out about the Fox show’s decision in 2020 to stop white actors voicing characters from other ethnic backgrounds.
Days after it was confirmed that Simpsons vet Harry Shearer had been replaced by voice actor Kevin Michael Richardson in the role of Dr. Julius Hibbert, Groening told the BBC: “Times change, but I actually didn’t have a problem with the way we were doing it. All of our actors play dozens of characters each; it was never designed to exclude anyone.”
It’s similar in tone to how The Simpsons initially handled the controversy in 2017, when questions were raised about Hank Azaria playing Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. Some months later, an episode featured Lisa breaking the fourth wall to declare: “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”
Asked if he regretted how it was handled, Groening said: “At a certain point it doesn’t matter what you say. You’re going to be attacked by whoever, you know? We’re not going out of our way to comfort bigots. On the other hand, if you do any kind of gesture and people perceive a weakness, you’ll be criticized.”
The cartoonist, who is currently working on Netflix series Disenchantment, added that he’s glad things are changing. “We’re trying to make it better,” he said. “Bigotry and racism are still an incredible problem and it’s good to finally go for more equality and representation.”