Harry Shearer, one of the six actors who does voices for characters on “The Simpsons,” issued a statement Friday chiding 20th Century Fox TV for not allowing he and his fellow cast members to have any profit participation in the series.
The statement came on the day the studio is said to have imposed a deadline on the cast to agree to a 45% pay cut or risk having the Fox series end in its current 23rd season.
“I’m willing to let them cut my salary not just 45% but more than 70%,” said Shearer via his rep, Allan Mayer. “All I would ask in return is that I be allowed a small share of the eventual profits.”
20th TV has contended that it is no longer economically viable to continue production given the expense of the actors’ salaries, which has risen to $440,000 per episode.
While the studio has given the cast raises in salary in at least four different renegotiations going back to 1998, the News Corp.-owned entity has never given any of them in a share of the back end. “Simpsons” has reaped billions in profits from syndication, DVD, merchandising and other global revenue streams.
While Shearer acknowledged that the salaries he and his fellow cast members receive, which total at least $8 million per season for each actor, are exorbitant by any standard, they are a fraction of the value of the franchise.
“All I would ask in return is that I be allowed a small share of the eventual profits,” said Shearer, who noted he doesn’t speak for the other cast members.
But Shearer added that Fox has already rejected his reps’ request that he get a small piece of the back end in exchange for a 70% cut.
“There were, the Fox people said, simply no circumstances under which the network would consider allowing me or any of the actors to share in the show’s success.”
Top producers on the series have already accepted unspecified pay cuts to continue for a 24th season, as Variety first reported.
Shearer, a veteran comic actor whose credits include “This is Spinal Tap” and “Saturday Night Live,” is the first of the “Simpsons” cast locked in the dispute to go public with criticism of Fox. The other actors in the standoff include Nancy Cartwright, Hank Azaria, Yeardley Smith, Dan Castellaneta and Julie Kavner.
Shearer does the voices of many “Simpsons” characters including Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Ned Flanders and Rev. Timothy Lovejoy.