Harry Shearer, Voice of Mr. Burns and Many More, Appears to Be Leaving The Simpsons [Updated]

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Harry Shearer. Photo: Valerie Macon/2011 Getty Images

Harry Shearer, the voice of many characters on The Simpsons — including Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, and Principal Seymour Skinner, among others — has indicated via Twitter that he won't be lending his prolific voice-acting talents to the seemingly immortal show any longer. In a pair of late-night tweets, Shearer quoted executive producer James L. Brooks's lawyer, saying, essentially, that he's leaving Springfield. The reason? Apparently Shearer wanted to balance some work elsewhere; his second tweet hints that such a notion wasn't taken very well.

Reports from earlier in the week implied that Shearer's 26th season might be his last, thanks to cryptic, last-minute contract hold-outs for the series' newly inked 27th and 28th seasons (TMZ has said it had to do with merchandising payments, but the actor's tweets say otherwise). At the moment, it's still unclear why Shearer, who's been with The Simpsons since the beginning, is alighting. On his website, Shearer's heavily plugging Le Show, which he hosts, and Nixon's the One, a YouTube series he co-created and stars in. Unless something's resolved here, Springfield is losing a sizable fraction of its major and minor characters (their original voices, at least). Say it ain't so.

Update: There may still be hope. Shearer told CNNMoney that he's battling Simpsons producers over his ability to do other work, but it appears his exit hasn't been finalized. "In [the] 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 if there's a chance he'll stay on the show, he said, "I think that's a question better posed to them."

And longtime Simpsons showrunner Al Jean has confirmed Shearer's departure, when reached for comment, he said, "Harry Shearer was offered the same deal the rest of the cast accepted and passed. We wish him well but the show will go on. Maggie took it hard." Talking to Hitfix, Jean also answered what it meant to the many very notable characters Shearer voiced: "Burns and Flanders will not die. They are great characters and will continue." Shearer also voiced Principal Skinner, Mr. Smithers, Reverend Lovejoy, Otto, and Lenny.

A tweet from James L. Books makes it seem like all hope is not lost.