‘Simpsons’ shakeup: Voice actor Harry Shearer to leave the show

The voice of several prominent characters is mired in a contract dispute with show runners and may not return for upcoming seasons.

Caption: Comedic talent and voice actor Harry Shearer reportedly is threatening to leave “The Simpsons” after 26 seasons voicing some of the show’s most popular characters. (AP file)

(MEDIA GENERAL) – Popular comedic talent and voice actor Harry Shearer reportedly has turned down a $14 million contract to work on “The Simpsons” for season 27 and 28, CNN reported Thursday, May 14, 2015.

Shearer, 71, has been with the show since its inception on “The Tracey Ullman Show” in 1987 and voices popular characters, including Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Waylon Smithers and Principal Seymour Skinner, among many others. “Simpsons” showrunner Al Jean confirmed Shearer was walking away from the show.

“As ‘The Simpsons’ continues its 27th and 28th seasons, Harry Shearer will not be within the show,” Jean told CNN on Thursday. “We do not plan to ‘kill off’ his characters, but replace them with the most talented members of the voice over community.”

Jean reportedly told The New York Times that Shearer turned down the same deal the rest of the cast accepted. CNN reports an anonymous source with direct knowledge of the situation said Shearer was offered $14 million to work for the two seasons and allowed the flexibility to work on other projects.

Jean commented shortly after Shearer’s frustrations with the show became public. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Shearer was the lone cast holdout in the latest round of negotiations. The voice actor recently has shown disdain for Fox and “Simpsons” management, including tweeting a Fox press release that announced seasons 27 and 28 without naming any actors. Shearer’s response: “Doesn’t this show have a cast?”

Shearer also tweeted quotes from the lawyer of James L. Brooks, executive producer of “The Simpsons,” reportedly twisting his reasoning for wanting to leave the show. Shearer told CNN the show has offered the flexibility to do other projects since its inception, but now is cracking down.

“In the last four years, I’ve created and starred in a UK TV series and starred on London stage. Not stopping,” Shearer told CNN.

There still may be a sliver of hope for “Simpsons” fans. When asked by a fan on Twitter whether there’s a chance Shearer will reconsider, Jean replied, “In life, I never say never.”

“The Simpsons” currently holds the record for longest-running primetime sitcom in the United States, running for 26 years since it launched on Fox in 1989.

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