For about a month now, fans of “The Simpsons” have been in a strange purgatory wondering if their beloved show is going to be changed forever following Season 26. After it was announced that long-time voice actor Harry Shearer was leaving the animated comedy, fellow cast member Hank Azaria spoke out to give fans some hope of redemption.
Speaking to Vulture at the Garden of Dreams talent show on Thursday, Azaria mentioned that negotiations are ongoing with Shearer and that he’s confident his reported exit won’t end up happening.
“You know, I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s gone,” he said. “We’re very hopeful that something gets worked out. I’m not giving up on this.”
As previously reported, there isn’t much known about the specific reason that Shearer is leaving the show other than that he doesn’t seem to want to take the contract that the rest of the cast, including Azaria, already accepted. While most assumed money was the problem, the actor took to Twitter to vaguely reveal that he wanted freedom to do other projects.
Still, it's looking bad for Shearer and the more than 20 voices he brings to life on “The Simpsons.” Speaking at ATX, producer Al Jean mentioned that there's been no change in Shearer's position since he last gave an update shortly after the news dropped.
“Well, we’re still hoping he might come back. Nothing’s done ‘til it’s done. He tweeted that it was over, but… There’s an offer that the rest of the cast accepted, and Harry has not accepted it. It’s not going to change, because the rest of the cast took it," Jean told Entertainment Weekly in mid-May. "So we’re hoping he does.”
Jean went on to say that if the 71-year-old actor maintains his decision to exit the show before its Season 27 and Season 28 run, that the voices of characters like Ned Flanders, Principal Seymour Skinner and C. Montgomery Burns will be recast. When asked if he would ever consider trying to pick up the slack left behind by Shearer, Azaria had this to say:
“I don’t think we’ve gotten that far yet — we’re either very hopeful or in denial, we’ll see… If he really doesn’t come back, the show has to continue in some way at least for a while... Maybe we’ll do a YouTube thing, like how they found that Asian guy that sings for Journey.”
So, while Shearer may not be a shoo-in to return to the show, as of right now it seems like all hope is not yet lost.