Harry Shearer, a key member of The Simpsons voice cast, appears to have quit the show over contract disputes.
The 71-year-old actor, who has starred in the animated comedy since its inception in 1989, voices a number of iconic characters including Mr Burns, Ned Flanders, Smithers and Principal Skinner.
According to a statement on his Twitter page, Shearer looks to have departed the show following a disagreement over “the freedom to do other work” during contract negotiations for seasons 27 and 28.
However, comments from executive producer James L. Brooks’ lawyer stating the “show will go on” indicate the cartoon will continue without Shearer, although the fate of his characters is not yet clear.
Two hours after his announcement on Twitter, he added:
Shearer is the only Simpsons star to quit over the latest round of contract negotiations – the rest of the talent have signed on for seasons 27 and 28, which was officially recommissioned by Fox last week.
Fox and the show’s producer Al Jean are yet to react to the news, though Jean said recently, “I don’t even want to consider that happening”, when asked if the show could survive one of its main characters or cast members leaving.
Unlike many of his co-stars, Shearer has embarked upon a string of other projects during his time on the show, appearing in comedies A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration, as well as BBC1 sitcom Outnumbered. Last year he played Richard Nixon in Playhouse Presents’ Nixon’s The One, and prior to The Simpsons, he co-wrote and starred in satirical rockumentary This Is Spinal Tap.
Below is a reminder of just 22 of the characters Shearer voices: