‘The Simpsons’ show runner Al Jean: ‘We’re still hoping Harry Shearer might come back’

Shearer, the voice of Mr Burns and Ned Flanders, announced he was quitting yesterday (May 14)

Show runner Al Jean has revealed that he is still hoping to tempt Harry Shearer back to The Simpsons after the voice actor announced he is leaving the long-running animated comedy.

Shearer, the voice of Mr Burns, Ned Flanders, Waylon Smithers, Principal Skinner and several other characters, broke the news on Twitter yesterday (May 14), citing contractual disputes and the lack of freedom to work on other projects as reasons for his departure.

Discussing Shearer’s surprise departure with Entertainment Weekly, Jean said: “Well, we’re still hoping he might come back. Nothing’s done ’til it’s done. He tweeted that it was over, but… There’s an offer that the rest of the cast accepted, and Harry has not accepted it. It’s not going to change, because the rest of the cast took it. So we’re hoping he does. If he doesn’t within a certain period of time, we would have to recast – but we haven’t started.”

Asked how long Shearer has to change his mind, Jean explained that the situation is “pretty vague” but suggested that the voice actor won’t be pressed for a final decision instantly because he has already recorded his parts for seven episodes of The Simpsons‘ 27th season, which is set to begin this autumn. Shearer’s other recurring roles on the show include Otto, Dr Hibbert, Lenny, Rev Lovejoy, Kent Brockman, Scratchy, God and the Devil.

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Jean went on to discuss how The Simpsons could be affected if Shearer ultimately chooses not to return. “I’d be lying if I said it was no loss. He’s talented and he just won an Emmy for The Simpsons,” the show runner admitted. “But I also have to say that I’d be lying if I said he was irreplaceable. I think that he could be replaced, and if need be, will have to be. We’re not going to get rid of the characters.”

Meanwhile, the show has recently been renewed for another two seasons. Fox announced earlier this month (May 4) that it has ordered Seasons 27 and 28 of the long-running animated sitcom, which will take The Simpsons to a massive 625 episodes since it began in 1989. The show is already the longest-running American sitcom, the longest-running American animated programme and the longest-running American scripted primetime series of all time.

Season 26 of The Simpsons is airing on Fox now and will conclude with its 22nd episode on May 17. Season 27 will then begin on Fox this autumn. Lena Dunham is set to guest star in the Season 27 premiere accompanied by her Girls castmates.