Popular characters in The Simpsons like Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Dr. Hibbert, and Carl Carlson will no longer be voiced by white actors, producers announced Friday.
“Moving forward, The Simpsons will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters," the show confirmed to BuzzFeed News.
The decision comes five months after actor Hank Azaria announced he would no longer be voicing Apu, a recurring character whose stereotypical portrayal and accent had drawn criticism for years.
Apu, a clerk of the Kwik-E-Mart convenience store, had not appeared on the show for months, but it was still unclear if Fox would be bringing the character back with another actor providing the voice.
On Friday, the show, which has been on the air for more than 30 years, announced it would be taking wider action in how its other nonwhite characters are voiced.
Azaria, for example, also voiced Carl Carlson, a Black character who works at the power plant with his inseparable best friend, Lenny Leonard, and Homer Simpson.
Harry Shearer also voiced nonwhite characters in the show like Dr. Hibbert and Sanjay Nahasapeemapetilon, Apu's brother.
News of the casting changes came shortly after Mike Henry announced he will no longer voice Cleveland Brown, a Black Family Guy character, saying, "persons of color should play characters of color." On Wednesday, Kristen Bell also announced she would not play a biracial character in the series Central Park and that the role would be recast, and Jenny Slate said she would no longer voice a Black character on the Netflix series Big Mouth.
Producers of The Simpsons have for years pushed back against efforts to change the show's characters, many of which have been portrayed with heavily stereotypical personalities. But Apu, whose character speaks heavily accented English and is in an arranged family with eight children, had been highly problematic for years.
Comedian Hari Kondabolu raised these issues in his documentary The Problem With Apu, where he argued the lovable but problematic character had helped drive the stereotype of South Asians.
The show ended up addressing the controversy during one of its episodes but pushed back at the time against any notion of change.
"Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect," Lisa Simpson says in an episode while her mother, Marge, reads a children's book that has been updated to remove stereotypical references.
Lisa then looks at a framed picture of Apu on her nightstand.
"Some things will be dealt with at a later date," Marge tells her.
"If at all," Lisa responds.