Back in August, voice acting veteran Harry Shearer—who has the supplied the jolly giggles for Dr. Julius Hibbert as well as the quips of many other characters since 1990—had some things to say about white voice actors playing Black characters. To summarize: He didn’t quite think the burden of representation was on the actor because their job “is to play someone who they’re not.” Not only did his opinion vastly differ from those like Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell, who both stepped down from their respective roles after the industry went through a reckoning last summer; it also gave the impression that he would be sticking around as Springfield’s most prominent medical expert for a while.
However, things changed on Monday when Variety confirmed that Shearer will not continue to voice Dr. Hibbert after all, following in the footsteps of Simpsons colleague Hank Azaria, who stepped down from his roles as Apu Nahasapeemapetilon in January 2020 and Carl Carlson in the fall. Kevin Michael Richardson will be taking over the role from Shearer, who could be heard voicing Dr. Hibbert for the last time in last Sunday’s episode, “DairyQueen.” Richardson will debut in this week’s forthcoming episode.
This development isn’t wholly unexpected: In June 2020, the show’s producers released a statement confirming that they would no longer have white actors play characters of color. But Shearer’s dissent and seniority did manage to leave things up in the air. Though he’s ultimately hanging up his animated stethoscope, Shearer still has quite a few staple characters under his belt, including Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Mr. Smithers, Principal Skinner. Basically, he’ll still be quite busy even with one less character.