Matt Groening has defended white actors playing non-white characters in 'The Simpsons'

Publish Date
Monday, 1 March 2021, 11:50AM


Matt Groening - who created the long-running animated favourite as well as 'Futurama' and 'Disenchantment' - has opened up after news that Harry Shearer would be replaced by Kevin Michael Richardson as the voice of Doctor Hibbert, a black character.

Speaking to BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat, Matt said: "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."

Following backlash after 2018 documentary 'The Problem With Apu', the show has worked over the last year to re-cast its non-white roles.

The show's team have taken steps to be more inclusive, but Groening defended the programme's previous response to criticism.

In one episode, the character of Lisa Simpson looked into the camera and said: "Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?"

Asked now if he regrets how they handled the issue, the creator responded: "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 criticised."

However, Groening acknowledged the need for change both with actors and across the whole television industry.

He said: "I absolutely agree with that. And we're trying to make it better.

"Bigotry and racism are still an incredible problem and it's good to finally go for more equality and representation."

Last year, Shearer - who also voices characters such as Mr. Burns and Ned Flanders - questioned whether it mattered as the job of an actor is to inhabit a variety of characters.

The 76-year-old 'Spinal Tap' star said: "I have a very simple belief about acting. The job of the actor is to play someone who they're not. That's the gig. That's the job description.

"I'm not a rich nuclear power plant owner. I'm not a Bible-believing Christian that lives next to Homer. I'm not any of those people."

This article was first published on BANG Showbiz and is republished here with permission.