The Simpsons creator: We did not set out to exclude

Sherna Noah
·2-min read

The Simpsons’ creator has said casting white actors to voice non-white characters was not meant “to exclude”.

The US show, which has been on-air since 1989, faced criticism for having Hank Azaria, who is white, voicing Indian shopkeeper Apu.

Fox later announced that the long-running comedy would no longer feature white actors voicing non-white characters.

Matt Groening said he did not have a problem with white actors playing non-white characters in the show, but “times change”.

Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons
Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons (Ian West/PA)

He told BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat: “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.”

He added: “Bigotry and racism are still an incredible problem and it’s good to finally go for more equality and representation.”

His comments come after the white voice actor who played the character of Dr Hibbert for more than 30 years was replaced by a black performer.

Watch: White voice over actors who stepped down from their roles as people of color

Harry Shearer first portrayed the chuckling medical professional – who is black – in 1990. His last episode as the character aired in the US this week.

Shearer has been replaced by Kevin Michael Richardson, network Fox said, and the actor will make his debut in the upcoming season 32 episode Wad Goals.

The show sparked controversy in 2018 for a scene in which character Lisa Simpson appeared to look into the camera and refer to the controversy over casting.

“Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” she said, in an episode, featuring a photo of Apu in the background.

Groening said: “At a certain point it doesn’t matter what you say. You’re going to be attacked by whoever, you know? Honestly, that doesn’t affect me at all.

“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 criticised.”

BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat is live at 12:45 and 5.45pm weekdays and on BBC Sounds.

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