The Simpsons creator Matt Groening says he 'didn't have a problem' with white actors voicing non-white roles

Matt Groening split screen
Matt Groening's creation The Simpsons first aired in 1989. Credit: AP/Fox

The Simpsons creator Matt Groening says that he "didn't have a problem" with white actors portraying non-white roles on the cartoon series.

It comes after the show's producers committed to "no longer have white actors voice non-white characters" in June last year.

Groening said, "I think it's great, times change but I actually didn't have a problem with the way we were doing it."

Kevin Michael Richardson (bottom right) has replaced Harry Shearer (top right) as Dr Julius Hibbert. Credit: Fox/AP

In an interview with BBC Newsbeat, he mentioned that "all our actors play dozens of characters each, it was never designed to exclude anyone."

Earlier this week, the white actor behind the voice of Dr Hibbert was official replaced by a black voice actor.

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Harry Shearer, who also voices Ned Flanders and Principal Skinner, stepped down from his role as Dr Hibbert after more than 30 years - being replaced by Kevin Michael Richardson.

Richardson is best known for his work on the popular animated shows Family Guy, The Cleveland Show and American Dad.

The Simpsons has been on our screens since 1989 but has faced criticism in the past, especially over the character of Indian shopkeeper Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.

Hank Azaria previously voiced the character of Indian shopkeeper Apu. Credit: AP/Fox

The character, who was voiced by white American actor Hank Azaria, faced heavy scrutiny in the 2017 documentary The Problem With Apu. It focused on the depiction of Apu as a stereotypical Indian immigrant.

At the start of 2020, Azaria - who also voices the likes of Chief Wiggum and Moe Szyslak - said he would no longer play the character of Apu, following years of controversy and accusations of racism.

The Simpsons creator Matt Groening acknowledges that there is an issue with diversity in the entertainment industry. He believes that "bigotry and racism are still an incredible problem and it's good to finally go for more equality and representation."

Voice actor Mike Henry stepped down from the role of Cleveland Brown in June 2020. Credit: AP/Fox

A number of white actors have already stopped voicing non-white characters in animated US shows.

In June 2020, Mike Henry stepped down from portraying the character of Cleveland Brown in Family Guy.

Actress Kristen Bell also announced that she would no longer voice biracial teenager Molly Tillerman in Apple TV's Central Park.

In addition, Jenny Slate left her role as Missy in the Netflix series Big Mouth.

The Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd in May 2020 became a catalyst for many white actors playing non-white roles to step down for the sake of greater diversity and accurate representation on and off-screen.