NEW YORK — Harry Shearer, the voice of iconic “Simpsons” characters like Mr. Burns and Ned Flanders, may be saying farewell to the show.
But don’t believe the headlines that say he’s already gone. What’s underway is a negotiation of sorts between Shearer and the producers of “The Simpsons,” and it’s suddenly spilled into public view.
Shearer told CNNMoney that the dispute centers around his ability to continue doing outside work. There is still time for the two sides to come to terms — but the production clock is ticking.
Fox ordered two more seasons of “The Simpsons” on May 4. But a few days later, TMZ reported that “one of the key players has not signed on.”
Early Thursday morning, Shearer revealed that he is the holdout. Shearer, a prolific tweeter, wrote that he’d received a letter from the lawyer for James L. Brooks, executive producer of “The Simpsons.”
The letter said “show will go on, Harry will not be part of it, wish him the best.”
Shearer’s response was to tweet the quote and add, “This because I wanted what we’ve always had: the freedom to do other work. Of course, I wish him the very best.”
Shearer says he’s had that freedom for decades. (He’s been a member of the voiceover cast ever since the show began in 1989.)
Now, he says, the producers are refusing to budge.
“In last four years, I’ve created and starred in a UK TV series and starred on London stage. Not stopping,” he wrote in a message to CNNMoney.
When asked whether there’s a chance he will continue on “The Simpsons,” he said “I think that’s a question better posed to them.”
Brooks’s production company, Gracie Films, is one of the two producing entities behind the show. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday morning, nor did the other entity, 20th Century Fox Television.
As news stories about Shearer’s possible departure proliferated on the web and his fans sent him say-it-ain’t-so messages, he posted one more tweet: “Thanks, Simpsons fans, for your support.”