Carl Carlson might sound a little different in this Sunday’s season 32 premiere of The Simpsons.
According to Variety, the episode will see Alex Désert voicing Carl for the first time, taking over the role from Hank Azaria who had voiced the Black character since the beginning of the show, except for his debut appearance (season 1, episode 10) where he was voiced by Harry Shearer.
Désert’s casting comes after The Simpsons producers confirmed earlier this summer that the show would no longer have white actors voice non-white characters amid conversations of social justice and Black representation in media. It’s unclear, though, whether Désert is now the permanent voice for Carl, a long-running supporting character on the show who appears as Homer Simpson’s (Dan Castellaneta) nuclear plant co-worker and Lenny Leonard’s (Shearer) best friend.
While it’s probably going to take a while for some fans to get used to Désert’s voice, the actor definitely knows what he’s doing, as he is no stranger to the world of voice acting. Désert’s has voiced Swarm on Disney XD’s Spider-Man: Maximum Venom and Mr. Bojenkins on Adult Swim’s Mr. Pickles and its spinoff Momma Named Me Sheriff. On the live-action front, Désert’s acting credits include TV series The Flash, Becker, and Better Call Saul, as well as movies like Freaky Friday, Alexander and the Terrible, High Fidelity, and Swingers, among many others.
The Simpsons’ decision to introduce a new voice actor for Carl came months after the show confirmed that it would be scaling back appearances of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, a South Asian character also voiced by Azaria, following a long-simmering conversation about whitewashing in animation.
“I know Apu is one of the smartest characters on The Simpsons — granted the bar isn’t very high — but it’s not why people liked him. They just liked his accent,” filmmaker Hari Kondabolu said in his documentary, The Problem with Apu.
In a move to help end whitewashing in animation and in Hollywood as a whole, Azaria revealed in January that he would no longer voice Apu.
The Simpsons season 32 premiere, titled Undercover Burns, airs on Sunday, September 27th at 8 p.m. ET on Fox. Check out the synopsis for the episode below:
“Mr. Burns (Shearer) goes undercover as ‘Fred’ (David Harbour) at the nuclear power plant and becomes friends with Homer (Castellaneta) and the gang. Burns implements all sorts of amenities to improve his employees’ lives, but a jealous Smithers (Shearer / Castellaneta) plots to bring the old, bitter Burns back and destroy Fred.”