UPDATE 7/7: Several weeks after Harry Shearer, voice of Mr. Burns, Principal Skinner, Otto and many other iconic characters on The Simpsons, announced his departure from the legacy show on Twitter, EW has learned he has now signed a deal and will return to the show for its 27th season.
Shearer has reportedly signed the same deal as his counterparts on the show. The show will remain on schedule ahead of Season 27’s September 27 premiere, as they’ve previously reserved seven episodes filmed during the previous season that do include Shearer’s voice work. Read the original story below, along with a round-up of Shearer’s best non-Simpsons moments.
The Simpsons recently got picked up for an additional two seasons, which will bring the show through its 28th season. But one cast member who has been with the show from the beginning, Harry Shearer, will not be joining it.
The International Business Times reported at the start of the week that the announcement of the new season was being held up due to contract negotiations between Harry Shearer and the producers, and this morning Shearer confirmed the news by tweeting the following:
from James L. Brooks’ lawyer: “show will go on, Harry will not be part of it, wish him the best.”. (1/2)
— Harry Shearer (@theharryshearer) May 14, 2015
This because I wanted what we’ve always had: the freedom to do other work. Of course, I wish him the very best. (2/2)
— Harry Shearer (@theharryshearer) May 14, 2015
Thanks, Simpsons fans, for your support. — Harry Shearer (@theharryshearer) May 14, 2015
Simpsons producer Al Jean then confirmed to Hitfix this morning what Shearer had already explained on Twitter:
“Harry Shearer was offered the same deal the rest of the cast accepted and passed. We wish him well but the show will go on. Maggie took it hard.”
When asked whether Burns, Flanders, Otto and other Shearer characters would continue, Jean said, “Yes, Burns and Flanders will not die. They are great characters and will continue.”
Jean added in a comment to The New York Times that the show plans to recast the roles of Burns, Flanders, Otto and many more with “the finest voiceover talent available”.
In 2011, Shearer took a pay cut to extend the show several more years, and penned an essay in The Daily Beast in which he wrote, “For many years now, the cast of The Simpsons has been trying to get Fox to agree that, like so many other people who’ve contributed significantly to the show’s success, we be allowed a tiny share of the billions of dollars in profits the show has earned.”
But these disputes are not just recent. For years the cast of The Simpsons has been embroiled in contract negotiations that have led to threats from Fox and even other departures. Maggie Roswell was the voice of Maude Flanders along with several other minor Springfieldians, but her character was killed off following a contract dispute. Fox at one point even threatened that the show could find reasonable replacements for the entire voice cast on any college campus in America, but eventually agreed that Shearer and the rest of the cast bring something special to the show. This then is the first time that major characters will be replaced among the voice cast. When actors Phil Hartman and more recently Marcia Wallace passed away, their characters did as well.
It now begs the question that since Shearer has demanded more time to do other projects while working on The Simpsons, what exactly is he likely to do? Thankfully Shearer has had a storied career outside of the animated classic, and we felt it best to share a few of those moments with you.
This is Spinal Tap: Behind Mr. Burns, Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls is by far Shearer’s most iconic role. His deadpan delivery here about how one of the band’s drummers choked on vomit is pure genius and an example of how strong an actor he is, but he also spends the movie fighting his way out of a tricky stage contraption, and the Tap even made a visit to Springfield with Shearer’s character Otto in attendance.
Tom Snyder: In 1977 Shearer appeared on The Tonight Show to give viewers a taste of what they were missing with TV personality Tom Snyder’s The Tomorrow Show, and he even successfully outshines Billy Crystal doing Muhammed Ali in a performance that’s more than just a big haircut.
Mark Shubb: There’s something about Shearer’s facial hair alone that allows him to stand out and completely find his voice in a character. In Christopher Guest’s A Mighty Wind, Shearer goes to the lowest note in his register to portray The Folksmen and Twobadors Bass singer Mark Shubb. Make a hole in this one and you’ll have a good time.
Richard Nixon: One of Shearer’s newest roles is also one of his most nuanced and subdued, an imagining of Richard Nixon’s taped conversations with Bob Haldeman and David Frost from 2013 called Nixon’s the One. Shearer was a co-creator of the short lived British series, and his work ranks with some of the better Nixon impersonators throughout history.
Wayne’s World 2: Shearer doesn’t have much to do here but blindly acknowledge Wayne and Garth, but his voice alone suggests a character, specifically a tacky radio DJ, that’s fully realized and developed even in a short stint.
Of course, we couldn’t not share this fantastic moment of Shearer in the flesh performing on Inside the Actor’s Studio The Simpsons characters that have helped make him a legend.