Having started its one-of-a-kind TV run over three decades ago, The Simpsons is an influential TV classic by all stretches of the imagination, but that doesn't mean the show is a perfect entity. (And no, I'm not just talking about fan debates over later seasons' episodes.) In recent years, The Simpsons has come under fire for continuing to use its white cast members to voice characters of color such as Apu, Dr. Hibbert, Carl and more. The show revealed this week that Kevin Michael Richardson will take over voicing Dr. Hibbert from Harry Shearer, and creator Matt Groening has now shared how he feels about such changes.
Speaking with BBC News about racial equality and monorail worker backlashes, Matt Groening is behind the changes that have been made, with Hank Azaria having previously stepped back from voicing Apu and others. But even so, Groening still doesn't necessarily think The Simpsons is 100% at fault for how it has handled voice acting for its characters. In his words:
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.
It's likely easy for someone in Matt Groening's position to not see any big problems with how things were working, since it was the status quo for so many years without large-scale blowbacks like the one that occurred when Hari Kondabolu released the documentary The Problem with Apu in 2017. But just because few people complained about the voice actors back then doesn't mean it was correct to keep things the same for all this time.
That said, Matt Groening isn't arguing that The Simspons should be keeping things the same going into future seasons. He understands the problem and is behind making the right changes to bring more equality to both the animated hit and other TV and film. Here's how he put it:
I absolutely agree with [changes being needed]. 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.
On the flip side, cast member Harry Shearer has talked in the past about why he wasn't exactly agreeable that changes had to be made with characters he voiced. He doesn't appear to have shared any statements since Kevin Michael Richardson was announced to be the permanent replacement for Dr. Julius Hibbert.