‘Simpsons’ to Stop Having White Actors Play Non-White Characters

“The Simpsons” will no longer have White actors voicing the roles of non-White characters on the long-running series, part of a broader push by animated shows to be more sensitive to matters of race and avoid stereotypes.

Hank Azaria, a White actor who voices several characters on “The Simpsons,” had already said he would stop playing Apu, the Indian convenience-store clerk. Now the rest of the show will follow suit, Fox Corp. said on Friday.

“The Simpsons” debuted in 1989 with a White cast voicing the Simpson family and the varied townspeople of Springfield. In addition to taking the role of Apu, Azaria played Carl Carlson, an African-American co-worker of Homer Simpson, and Lou, a Black police officer. Harry Shearer, also White, has played Dr. Hibbert, an African-American doctor.

Fox has aired the Matt Groening-created show on its broadcast network for more than three decades, but the series is now finding a new audience on Disney+, which launched with “Simpsons” reruns late last year.

Hollywood has been reevaluating its practices after nationwide protests forced a racial-justice reckoning for the entertainment industry. Earlier this week, Disney said it would rebrand two of its Splash Mountain rides, which have ties to the controversial 1946 film “Song of the South,” and late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel apologized for appearing in blackface earlier in his career.

On “Family Guy,” another animated show on Fox, actor Mike Henry said he would no longer voice the character of Cleveland, who is Black. Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell also said they would stop playing their non-White roles on animated shows this week. Slate has appeared on Netflix Inc.’s Big Mouth, while Bell has a role on Apple TV+’s “Central Park.”

“Playing the character of Molly on ‘Central Park’ shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege,” Bell said on Instagram. “It was wrong and we, on the ‘Central Park’ team, are pledging to make it right.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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