Harry Shearer, who voices beloved Simpsons characters such as Ned Flanders and Mr Burns, announced via Twitter that he has left the show. Fox confirmed to the Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog that the actor will not be returning to the show, but that this doesn’t mean the end for his characters, via this quote from showrunner Al Jean:
“Harry Shearer was offered the same deal the rest of the cast accepted, and passed. The show will go on and we wish him well. Maggie took it hard.”
While past negotiations with The Simpsons’ voice cast have been fraught with tension over salaries, it seems that Shearer’s beef was actually over a requirement for exclusivity. The actor has been able to take on other projects in the past, notably collaborations with Christopher Guest, but the new contract would have prevented this, and he instead chose to move on.
Despite the assurances from Fox, many fans will see replacing Shearer as an impossible task, and be left wondering if the show truly can go on without him.