The Simpsons were serious when they announced last summer that there were planning on diversifying its voice cast to include more BIPOC voice actors.
“Moving forward, The Simpsons will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters,” the show said in a statement last June.
The long-running animated series continued to add to their talented cast this week with the move to make Kevin Michael Richardson the new voice of Black character Dr. Julius Hibbert. The character was voiced by Harry Shearer for the last 32 seasons.
Diversity in voice acting became a major topic of debate when comedian Hari Kondabolu released the 2017 documentary The Problem with Apu. In the film, Kondabolu explores Simpson’s character, convenient store owner Apu, the negative stereotypes of Indian people on TV and the impact it had on his and other South Asian children growing up. He also criticized the fact that the character was voiced by white actor Hank Azaria. “[Hes’] a white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father.”
Since the documentary aired four years ago, Azaria has stepped down from playing the role. He also is no longer voicing the characters of Carl, Lou and Bumblebee Man, the most recognizable of the few Latino characters on the TV series.
Bumblebee Man is a parody of El Chapulin Colorado created by the late Roberto Gómez Bolaños, aka Chespirito, Now, voice actor Eric Lopez has taken over the role.
Along with The Simpsons, other animated shows have also decided to cast Black, Indigenous, Latinx and people of color voice actors to play Black, Indigenous, Latinx and POC characters. Last year, voice actor Mike Henry decided to step away from his role as Black character Cleveland Brown on the Family Guy after 20 years. Also, actresses Jenny Slate (Zootopia) and Kristen Bell (Frozen) gave up their roles as POC characters on their animated shows, Big Mouth and Central Park.
Besides Bumblebee Man, can you name any other Latino characters featured on The Simpsons in the last three decades? You’ll be hard-pressed to find them—and might be a bit confused if they’re only described as “Hispanic” or “Spanish”—but here are a few examples you might remember.
Dr. Nicholas "Nick" Riviera M.D.
The doctor of “Hispanic descent” isn’t very good at his job. He has a degree from Hollywood Upstairs Medical College. His catch phrase is, “Hi, everybody!” He’s killed off in 2007’s The Simpson’s Movie, but returns to the show without a scratch on him. Maybe he’s a good doctor after all.
Homer plays father figure to the little boy when he signs up to volunteer at the Bigger Brothers Agency. Homer teaches Pepi, who he calls Pepsi, nothing of value and Pepi ends up being adopted by another big brother.
The Argentinian-Jewish second grader becomes Lisa Simpson’s friend until she reveals that she is a Republican. She is voiced by Eva Longoria.
When Homer gets angry at Marge, he moves out and bunks up with two gay guys, one of them Julio, who is Costa Rican. He was voiced by Azaria, but is now voiced by Mario Jose.
The Mexican film director is a parody of Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan). He is hired by Mr. Burns when the real Spielberg isn’t available to make a movie for him. Burns asks Smithers to get him “his non-union Mexican equivalent.”
The kids are immediately impressed by their new teacher at Springfield Elementary, who is a former military leader. She leaves the teaching profession when she decides to redeploy to Afghanistan. “If there’s one thing I learned in combat is that the most powerful weapon is knowledge,” she says. Ms. Berrera is voiced by actress Sofia Vergara.
Vidal is the “world’s most devious assassin,” as described by Mr. Burns. He’s hired by Burns to kill Homer’s father, Abe, so that he could be the soul survivor of a military unit he and Abe served in together.