Voices carry at Fox

Actors accept offer, return to 'Simpsons'

Homer speaks!

The voice actors behind Fox’s “The Simpsons” have agreed to a new contract and will return to work this week.

Although terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, it’s believed the thesps — Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Hank Azaria (Moe, Apu), Harry Shearer (Mr. Burns), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Julie Kavner (Marge) and Nancy Cartwright (Bart) — will now pick up a paycheck somewhere close to $250,000 per episode.

That’s a nice bump from the $125,000 per seg they pulled down last season, but far below the $360,000 they had been demanding.

The actors also failed to achieve what was considered to be their top demand, a stake in the show’s profits.

With the salary dispute figured out, 20th Century Fox TV said it expected to get back on track and produce all 22 episodes of the animated laffer as planned after all.

“We couldn’t be happier to have reached a multiyear deal with the enormously talented cast of ‘The Simpsons,’ ” the studio said in a statement. “Fans will be pleased to know that despite our recent production delay, we are optimistic that they can look forward to a full season’s episodes next year on Fox and hopefully many years to come.”

Production halted on the show’s 2004-05 season (its 16th) in late March after the “Simpsons” cast didn’t show up to the year’s first table reads. With their contracts up, the actors banded together and argued that they were still dramatically underpaid, noting that their share was a relatively small portion of what’s become a global, billion-dollar enterprise.

The studio, on the other hand, noted that the thesps were well paid given the small time commitment necessary to voice the show. Insiders noted that the actors work just six to seven hours per episode.

With the delay in production, Fox was facing a potentially abbreviated season of “The Simpsons.”

Talks remained at an impasse until early last week, when 20th came back and handed the actors a counteroffer. The studio drew a line in the sand, essentially offering the cast a “take it or leave it” offer that expired at the end of the Friday business day.

They took it.

The cast declined comment, but ultimately it’s believed at least one or two of the actors urged the others to drop the profit participation demands and accept the deal.

“You’re only as strong as your weakest link,” one insider said of the thesps’ decision.

But both sides also had a vested interest in making a deal work. For the thesps, “The Simpsons” is probably the best job they’ll ever have. And for News Corp., “The Simpsons” has truly become one of its crown jewels — one that an actor walkout might have tarnished.

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