Words: Will Stroude
The Simpsons has continued to diversify its voice talent after recasting a long-standing gay character with a gay actor.
Springfield resident Julio - who was introduced in 2003 as Homer's new gay roommate before becoming a recurring character - is now being voiced by gay Cuban-American actor Tony Rodriguez, who made his debut on the 28 March episode 'Uncut Femmes'.
Julio was previously voiced for 17 years by The Simpsons star Hank Azaria, who recently stepped down performing ethnic minority characters including Indian Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu Nahasapeemapetilon and Homer's African-American colleague Carl Carlson.
Rodriguez's casting as Julio was prompted in part by the release in January of a supercut of every gay joke made on The Simpsons in the show's 32-year history, which has since amassed more than 345,000 views on YouTube.
The video prompted Rodriguez to film his own message to producers of The Simpsons urging them to cast him in the role. During an appearance on the 'Gayest Episode Ever' podcast, Rodriguez revealed that the supercut had been seen by makers of The Simpsons had and helped prompt the change.
"[The Simpsons] showrunner, Matt Selman, had seen the supercut, heard the podcast and heard you say my name," he said.
Tony Rodriquez will now voice the role of Julio on 'The Simpsons'
"By that point, my video was out, and he asked the other writers of the show: ‘Does anyone know who Tony Rodriguez is?'"
He went on: "We didn’t know they were actively looking to recast, and we didn’t know they had been looking for weeks. Thank god you put [the supercut] out there when you did!"
the every gay joke ever on the Simpsons video definitely had a hand in this magic coming together— Matt Selman (@mattselman) March 28, 2021
Matt Selman, who serves as an executive producer for The Simpsons, confirmed that the supercut video had indeed played a role in the decision, tweeting last month: "the every gay joke ever on the Simpsons video definitely had a hand in this magic coming together."
Reacting to his casting on Twitter this week, Rodriguez wrote that voicing the role was a "dream come true."
The recent casting shake-up at The Simpsons comes in the wake of comedian Hari Kondabolu's 2017 documentary The Problem with Apu, which argued that the character was a South Asian stereotype that often prompted real-world racist abuse.
Hank Azaria later confirmed he would step down from voicing the role before The Simpsons bosses confirmed in the wake of 2020's Black Lives Mateer protests that all non-white characters would no longer be voiced by white actors.
The Simpsons airs on Sky One in the UK and is also available to stream on Disney+.