The Simpsons creator Matt Groening ‘didn’t have a problem’ with white actors voicing non-white characters

Isobel Lewis
·2-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The Simpsons creator Matt Groening says that he “didn’t have a problem” with white actors voicing non-white characters on the cartoon series.

Last June, the show’s producers said that they would “no longer have white actors voice non-white characters” on the long running animated programme, following years of criticism prompted by Hari Kondabolu 2017 documentary The Problem with Apu.

“I think it’s great, times change, but I actually didn’t have a problem with the way we were doing it,” Groening told BBC Newsbeat.

“All of our actors play dozens of characters each, it was never designed to exclude anyone.”

When the long-running animated series originally responded to criticism raised by Kondabolu in 2018, it faced more backlash.

Matt Groening ‘didn’t have a problem’ with white actors voicing non-white ‘Simpsons’ charactersGetty Images for Netflix
Matt Groening ‘didn’t have a problem’ with white actors voicing non-white ‘Simpsons’ charactersGetty Images for Netflix

In the episode, Lisa told the camera: “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” They later backtracked on these comments.

Asked if he regretted how the show handled the criticism, Groening said: “At a certain point it doesn’t matter what you say. You’re going to be attacked by whoever, you know?

Read more: The Simpsons pays tribute to Edna Krabappel actor Marcia Wallace

“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 said that the team were working to improve their diversity both on and behind the screen, saying: “Bigotry and racism are still an incredible problem and it’s good to finally go for more equality and representation.”

Last year, actor Hank Azaria stepped down from voicing South-Asian character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon on The Simpsons.

Earlier this week, white actor Harry Shearer appeared on the show as black character Dr Julius Hibbert for the last time. The character will be voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson in future episodes.