Simpsons producer on Harry Shearer: “I hope he comes back”

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Producers of The Simpsons say they are baffled at the news Harry Shearer is quitting the show, and deny he does not have freedom to work on other projects.

In an extensive interview with The Hollywood Reporter, showrunner Al Jean says Shearer has been offered the same salary and terms as the rest of the cast, which includes time to work on other projects.

Here are two of the questions asked from a much longer interview:

The Simpsons was renewed for two more seasons — and now Harry claims to be done from the series. What happened here?
I’m a little baffled. The other five [voice stars] signed on May 1 and we offered him the same contract everybody else got offered, but he didn’t sign so we started reading like we were going to and [were] waiting to see if he wanted to come back or not. Then about a week ago TMZ somehow got ahold of a story that [an unnamed voice actor from the cast] wasn’t returning. Then last night Harry tweeted something to the extent that he was leaving the show — implying he wasn’t wanted — which isn’t true. 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. The other misinformation that has been spread is that it would jeopardize these two seasons we’re doing up until 625 episodes. That’s for sure a pickup from the network, and everybody else is pay-or-play — so we’ll make those episodes. If he chooses not to come back, we’ll recast. We will not kill his characters; that’s one way to go. I’m sure there will be plusses and minuses with that and, at the moment, I’m hoping he comes back. But if he doesn’t in a reasonable time, we’ll have to do the other options.

If the voice cast have the freedom to do other projects outside of The Simpsons, what’s Harry upset about?

He lives in England. He does a radio show and a play about Nixon. I’m not trying to be argumentative but I have no idea what we’re preventing him from doing. The time commitment for him is: there are 22 reads, which you can do via phone. One hour per phone. He can record via phone, doing more than one episode at once, and pick those up within an hour or two. So, if you do that math, I don’t know. This is why I’m really baffled. He’s saying it’s not the money, and it can’t be money because there’s not going to be a different offer he’s going to get. TMZ, [where] to be accurate, he wasn’t being quoted — I don’t know if it came from a representative of his or some other source — said something about a backend [of the profits], but that’s not it. It can’t be the availability to do other projects, and it isn’t that the deal is different than his other cast members. I don’t know. Honestly, if it was me, I would take the deal right now. I wouldn’t be waiting one second. I’m not trying to be disingenuous — I wish him well — but I don’t understand. I’m perplexed. I understand if, for example, somebody like [The Sopranos’] James Gandolfini said that this is such a stressful job; I’m working on a six-hour, six days a week, and I’m playing this horrible man and I’m exhausted. I understand that kind of person saying the job prevents them from other things, but I don’t understand it in voiceover.

You can read the rest here.

6 Comments:

  1. Shearer specifically in another interview that he wants to do more other work, and that he had more freedom to do so in the past. The fact that the terms are the same as for the other actors doesn’t change that.

    What they seem to be having a lot of trouble with is that there is someone they can’t manipulate with money and are trying to blame Shearer for it. He has enough money (he is over 70) and simply just wants to do something else for change after 26 years and 574 episodes.

  2. daveinprogress

    This is another of those curious showbiz merry go round of negotiations and ego stroking. I really like Harry, probably my favourite of the cast, as his characters are so vivid and varied. And he has done other things and appeared here too. Maybe he’s trying to pull a Brad Garrett – knowing he is so integral to the making of the show and success thereof, and playing hard ball. I recall him being the last to win a competitive Emmy i think – perhaps he feels hard done by. I don’t feel sorry for him, not with that wealth and schedule. But it is curious. And the show will suffer; even if they get other great actors – he is so recognisable in those roles. Burns, Smithers, Flanders et al are major characters and protagonists.

  3. I think they may as well end the show now. I’m one of their biggest fans, I absolutely love the show but I have to admit their story lines have been wearing quite thin lately. Yes, they could replace their voices, but that’s been done with other shows and it’s never the same. There are too many characters to kill off, though Mr Burns is so old biologically he should be long dead. I think they are only continuing with it because they had already signed the new contract and didn’t count on this.

  4. This opens up the door for an up & coming voice artist to take over his role. Having said that I think Billy West would be a good replacement.

  5. I don’t get it either to be honest.
    Everyone knows The Simpsons cast are paid very handsomely for very minimal amounts of work, compared to regular folk or even actors appearing in a 24 Ep hour long drama series they work not even a quarter of the amount of time.
    It might take 5 hours out of their week so I don’t buy that it is about the flexibility at all.
    It’s either got to do with money or boredom in my opinion.

    • +1.
      Although anyone reading the lines of Mr Burns and Ned Flanders for 26 seasons would become dily-diddly-diddly-pre-diddly-ictably-ding-dong.

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