Fans of The Simpsons might hear new voices in Springfield soon; one of the show’s main voice actors, Harry Shearer, has quit.
Harry Shearer has been with The Simpsons all of the 25 seasons it has been on the air. He has voiced over 31 characters, including major side characters like Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, and even Maggie Simpson.
Mr. Burns isn’t going anywhere anytime soon? Excellent. Al Jean, the current showrunner for the show, confirmed that Mr. Burns, Principal Skinner, and Ned Flanders will be recast for the following seasons.
Shearer himself said he left so he could have “the freedom to do other work.” However, many people on the production team of The Simpsons speculated that the reason was due to a contract dispute. What he himself plans to do post-Simpsons, and why he turned down the $7 million per year contract to return, remains to be seen. He may have just decided that he’s had enough after 25 years on The Simpsons. Outside of his work on The Simpsons, Shearer is the bassist in the mock-band Spinal Tap, and he has guest-starred on many shows, including Friends and ER.
This is not the first time a major actor has left a show or a movie series. Charlie Sheen was infamously fired on Two and a Half Men in 2011, which led to Sheen’s character being killed off altogether. A new character, played by Ashton Kutcher, was introduced to keep the “two and a half men” theme going, and it ultimately brought a different dynamic to the show.
Another unfortunate instance of death in a television show occurred both on and off the camera with actor John Ritter in 8 Simple Rules. John Ritter died of an aortic dissection, which was misdiagnosed as a heart attack, while filming the second season of the show. His character in the show, a father of three children, died similarly of an unexpected heart attack. The rest of the season explored the other characters’ adjustments to his death.
One television series that embraces different actors playing all the same role is Doctor Who. The series has been going on for over 50 years, and it has had over 13 actors play the Doctor. The show explains the different actors and personalities as regenerations of the same character, as the Doctor is an alien who is over 900 years old and has the ability to regenerate instead of dying.
If the producers for The Simpsons are set on recasting Shearer’s major characters, the question still remains: Who will take his place? There are some YouTube impersonators who many believe would be apt replacements for Shearer. One YouTuber in particular, Brock Baker, has already posted an audition tape on YouTube with many impersonations of Shearer’s characters.
There are many different directions The Simpsons could go in response to Shearer’s exit. Because these characters have a long history and fan base, more likely than not, they will be re-cast. Characters with occasional appearances in the series may not find themselves on the show again, although they too can easily be re-casted. Either way, the show will continue on, which is okily-dokily fine by me.