THE SIMPSONS creator Matt Groening has said he has never had an issue with white actors voicing characters from other ethnic backgrounds on the show.
His admission comes just days after it was announced Harry Shearer would no longer voice the role of African-American physician Dr Julius Hibbert on the show.
Family Guy voice actor Kevin Michael Richardson has been recruited to replace Shearer in the role.
It comes as part of Fox’s pledge to stop white actors from voicing non-white characters on its shows.
Speaking to the BBC on the topic, Groening 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.”
The Simpsons creator’s response shares similarities to the way the show responded to the controversy that erupted in 2017 when fans began to call for Hank Azaria to stop voicing the character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon on the series.
Azaria eventually opted to step down from the role, however an episode of the show saw Lisa Simpson break the fourth wall to declare: “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”
In the BBC interview, Groening was quizzed on his handling of the Apu controversy and whether he regretted airing the episode featuring Lisa’s statement.
Groening said: “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.”
Groening was keen to add he was glad things were changing in the industry as a whole.
“We’re trying to make it better,” he said.
“Bigotry and racism are still an incredible problem and it’s good to finally go for more equality and representation.”
Azaria previously addressed the Apu controversy during an appearance on The Stephen Colbert Show where he apologised for any offence caused.
“It’s come to my attention more and more, especially over the last couple of years, that people in the south Asian community in this country have been fairly upset by the voice and characterization,” Azaria told Stephen Colbert.
“It’s sparked a lot of conversation about what should be done with the character going forward, which is not so easy to answer.”
“And I’ve tried to express this before: You know the idea that anybody – young or old, past or present – was bullied or teased based on the character of Apu, it just really makes me sad,” Azaria added.
“It was certainly not my attention, I wanted to spread laughter and joy with this character. And the idea that it’s brought pain and suffering in any way, that it’s used to marginalize people, it’s upsetting, genuinely.”