The Simpsons’ executive producer Al Jean still hopes voiceover artist Harry Shearer will return to the show, but says that he can be replaced if need be.
The actor, who provides the voices for Mr Burns, Smithers, Ned Flanders, Principal Skinnner and many, many more, announced his exit on Twitter following contract disputes over “the freedom to do other work”.
But showrunner Jean said told Entertainment Weekly that, while he was a loss to the show, “he could be replaced.”
“He’s talented and he just won an Emmy for The Simpsons,” Jean said. “But I also have to say that I’d be lying if I said he was irreplaceable. I think that he could be replaced, and if need be, will have to be. We’re not going to get rid of the characters.”
Jean explained that while they were still open to Shearer returning and “committing” to The Simpsons, the show’s creators could cast several new people to voice his characters, and they wouldn’t have to kill off key characters like Burns and Flanders.
“We’d probably have several [actors]. For example, if we recast Dr. Hibbert, it should be an African-American actor. There are a lot of great African-American voice actors. There’s no reason that all those characters need to be voiced by one person.
“Also, the person that does the voice could have other funny voices too, which could add to the show. Burns doesn’t have to be front and centre in every episode. We’ve had three really good reads without Harry being on the show. It’s not like we’re sitting there going, ‘Oh, this a disaster.’ We’re moving. We’re doing it.”
He added that there were several “holdover” episodes already made featuring Harry Shearer, so viewers would not immediately notice the difference if a new actor voiced the characters.