Harry Shearer Leaving The Simpsons? Star in Tense Contract Negotiations

Harry Shearer
Voice actor Harry Shearer will likely not return to The Simpsons for seasons 27 and 28, but his characters Ned Flanders, Mr. Burns, and Principal Skinner will not be killed off. Michael Kovac/WireImage.com

D'oh! There's trouble in Springfield. Ten Days after FOX renewed its animated classic The Simpsons for two more seasons, it was revealed that one of its most iconic voice actors, Harry Shearer, will likely not return to voice characters like Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, and Principal Skinner for seasons 27 and 28.

At the time of the long-running show's renewal, FOX had deals in place with all actors except for lone holdout Shearer, who continued his contract talks and approached a stalemate with execs including James L. Brooks and showrunner Al Jean. Late Wednesday, May 13, Shearer, 71, tweeted a letter he received from executive producer Brooks' lawyer, which stated that "[the] show will go on, Harry will not be a part of it."

mr. burns
Harry Shearer voices Mr. Burns on The Simpsons 20th Century Fox/Courtesy Everett Collection

Though his string of tweets threw Simpsons fans for a loop when it looked as if Shearer was confirming his exit, the actor told CNN's Brian Stelter Thursday morning that he isn't done — yet. At issue for the actor is his ability to take on side projects while still filming The Simpsons, something FOX execs aren't keen on. (According to Shearer, he's been free to pursue concurrent opportunities since joining the show in 1989.)

"In the last four years, I've created and starred in a UK TV series and starred on London stage. Not stopping," the Emmy-winning actor wrote to CNN via email. So is he really leaving The Simpsons? "I think that's a question better posed to [execs]."

ned flanders
Harry Shearer also voices Ned Flanders on The Simpsons 20th Century Fox/Courtesy Everett Collection

Showrunner Jean followed up on Shearer's note to CNN, and confirmed seemingly once and for all that the contract talks had collapsed. "As the Simpsons continues its 27th and 28th seasons, Harry Shearer will not be within the show," Jean wrote to Stelter."We do not plan to 'kill off' his characters," Jean added, "but replace them with the most talented members of the voice over community."

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