‘The Simpsons’ Harry Shearer talks about white actors voicing characters of other races
Following years of debate over white actor Hank Azaria voicing Indian Simpsons character Apu, Azaria announced he'd no longer voice the character earlier this year. Fox spokesman Les Eisner went one step further in June, saying that "Moving forward, The Simpsons will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters." Now Harry Shearer, who voices multiple Simpsons characters, including Black doctor Julius Hibbert, has spoken about the subject in an interview with Times Radio's Matt Chorley.
"I have a very simple belief about acting," Shearer told Chorley. "The job of the actor is to play someone who they're not."
Saying that he wasn't "opining" about producers' recent decision on who to have white actors voice, Shearer said that as far as actors portraying characters who differ from them, "That’s the gig. That’s the job description."
"I think there's a conflation between representation which is important --people from all backgrounds should be represented in the writing and producing ends of the business so they help decide what stories to tell and with what knowledge -- and performance," Shearer continued. "The job is playing someone I'm not."
Shearer says he's not speaking out of self-interest: "We don't get paid by the voice," he joked.
Amid this summer's public reckoning over racism, multiple actors have stopped portraying Black characters, including Jenny Slate (who will no longer voice Missy on Big Mouth) and Kristen Bell (who has stepped down from voicing Molly on Central Park).