Shearer’s last turn as the character occurred this past Sunday, making way for Richardson to begin on Feb. 28. The move follows through with an announcement from the show’s producers last June stating white actors will no longer voice non-white characters.
The Simpsons’ change of heart came shortly after Mike Henry stepped down as the voice of Cleveland Brown on Family Guy after two decades. “It’s been an honor to play Cleveland on Family Guy for 20 years,” Henry explained via Twitter at the time. “I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color.”
Henry’s departure was part of a chain reaction where white actors were forced to contend with the representation issues that came with lending their voice to a Black character, thereby taking away an opportunity from a Black actor. Jenny Slate announced she would no longer be playing the biracial character of Missy on the Netflix series Big Mouth. Kristen Bell did the same with her character Molly on the Apple TV+ series Central Park shortly thereafter.
Shearer will still be voicing the roles of Mr. Burns, Mr. Smithers, Principal Skinner, Ned Flanders, and Reverend Lovejoy, among others. Richardson’s previous work includes speaking roles on Family Guy and American Dad, as well as his portrayal of Rosie on F Is For Family, which earned him an Emmy nomination in 2019.