Ned Flanders and Mr. Burns might sound a little different soon: Harry Shearer is going to be replaced on “The Simpsons,” the show’s top producer says.
The actor - whose voice has been a fixture on Fox’s animated comedy since it premiered in 1989 - tweeted late Wednesday that he is leaving the show. “The Simpsons” was just picked up for seasons 27 and 28.
“‘Show will go on, Harry will not be part of it, wish him the best,’” Shearer wrote, passing on a message he said came from an attorney for James L. Brooks, one of the show’s producers.
“This is because I wanted what we’ve always had: The freedom to do other work,” he added.
Shearer later added that his exit “wasn’t about money.”
Al Jean, executive producer and showrunner of “The Simpsons,” tweeted that Shearer had passed on a deal the other five other regular voice actors had accepted. That deal, he said, would have allowed Shearer to pursue other work as he has always done. Shearer’s tweet was “confusing,” he wrote.
Jean said that the voices of Homer’s upright neighbor Flanders and other Shearer characters will be “recast if Harry does not return” - wording that seems to offer at least a possibility that the exit is not final.
Also, on Thursday morning, Brooks sent out a tweet asking Shearer to return to the negotiating table to work out a return to the show.
“Hey, we tried,” wrote Brooks. “We’re still trying. Harry, no kidding, let’s talk.”
But a resolution looks increasingly unlikely. “My dream in life is for someone to treat me the way the Simpsons treated Harry,” Jean added.
A spokesman for 20th Century Fox Television, which makes the show, did not return an email seeking comment.
This is not the first time the voice actors have butted heads with the studio. In 2011, a rancorous pay dispute led to a 30% pay cut for Shearer and the others, although they still earned a reported $300,000 per episode. That made them among the best-compensated actors on TV.
Shearer would not be the first actor to exit abruptly from a hit cartoon. Isaac Hayes, who voiced Chef on “South Park,” suddenly quit the series in 2006.
“The Simpsons” is the longest-lasting series in prime-time TV history and has delivered more than $1 billion in profits to News Corp., the parent company of Fox.
What do you think of Shearer’s exit from “The Simpsons”?