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Al Jean says he doesn’t know what Harry Shearer’s problem is

The fallout from Harry Shearer’s announced departure from The Simpsons continues, as showrunner Al Jean tells The Hollywood Reporter that he doesn’t know why Shearer would want to leave the show. In a new interview, Jean says that Shearer was offered the same deal as the rest of the show’s voice cast, all of whom extended their contracts for the next two years earlier this month:

We made him an offer and we’re once more saying, “Do you want to come back like everybody else and work hard and care about the show? Great.” He said he wanted to do other projects, which makes no sense because we’ve always let the cast do all the other projects they want — they have great free time. So I don’t really know what he’s up to [or] what he’s thinking. I hope he comes back.


Jean goes on to reiterate that he doesn’t know what, exactly, the show is preventing Shearer from doing, and that he’s allowed to record his voice parts over the phone, so he doesn’t see what the big deal is. And unlike co-creator James L. Brooks, who extended a friendly tweet to Shearer yesterday, Jean doesn’t seem like he has much patience for Shearer quitting:

If he wants a deal different than the cast, he can’t get it. I don’t know what else you could want with this job. It’s pretty simple…I feel we’ve done everything we can to keep him on this show. We have made it a terrific job that’s really well paying. He’s won an Emmy for it. He has gotten acclaim worldwide. He can live in another country. He can phone it in and do whatever else he wants. So I don’t know what else. I kind of defy you to find a problem.

Jean, who has already said that the show will recast Shearer’s parts, says that it would be very difficult to find one person who could do all of the voices Shearer does on The Simpsons, and that, since the show has always tried to keep Shearer happy, they don’t have any actors immediately lined up to replace him. But it’ll be fine. “That’s at least an issue for next week, if not later. It’ll be done,” he says.

Really, it’ll be okay, Jean insists, citing the example of Shearer refusing to participate in the Simpsons ride at Universal Studios, and no one missing him there. (Burn.) Let Shearer leave, Jean says; people got used to The Simpsons in HD, so they’ll get used to a new Mr. Burns (and Smithers, and Lenny, and Ned Flanders, and Seymour Skinner, and Dr. Hibbert, and Jasper Beardly, and…). “I can’t feel like we should end the show where all these people work, all these animators, people who aren’t necessarily in the public but have worked here for a long time, because one person doesn’t want to accept a deal of that magnitude,” he says. “I don’t think it’s right to end it.”


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