We Talk To Eric Lopez, the New Voice of Bumblebee Man on ‘The Simpsons’
Courtesy Eric Lopez/Fox
After the racial reckoning of 2020, the entertainment industry scrambled to diversify talent in front of, and behind, the camera. One of the shows that made the most changes was “The Simpsons“.
For context, virtually all of the non-white (non-yellow?) characters on “The Simpsons” were voiced by white voiceover actors. But in 2020, the producers of “The Simpsons” announced that they would “no longer have white actors voice non-white characters.” “The Simpsons” recast the voices for Dr. Julius Hibbert, Carl Carlson, and have plans to recast Apu. And of course, they recast the voice for virtually the sole Latino character on the show: Bumblebee Man.
We talked to the new voice of Bumblebee Man, voiceover actor Eric Lopez, about his career, diversity in animation, and keeping his last name.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
we are mitú (WAM): I didn’t realize that all characters of color on “The Simpsons” were being voiced by white actors. What was your opinion about white actors playing characters that weren’t white?
Eric Lopez (EL): Growing up, you see a lot of people representing “your kind” that’s not really in your demographic. As far as voiceover goes, I’ve never really had a problem with it, because [VO] is based on your range. It’s all about character. So if you can get that character across vocally, then I think it’s okay. As long as it’s not offensive, because it can be offensive. There’s certain roles that I’ve seen and I’m like ‘That’s a little offensive.’ You know “Family Guy” with the cleaning lady [Consuela], I’m like ugh.
Hispanic checking in. We love bumblebee man. pic.twitter.com/7kojRVeStl— IronTurle🐢 (@iLEx_006) January 18, 2020
“That’s how cartoons and animation are. You take someone and you make them a big character. And that’s what makes that character loveable.”
WAM: Did you ever find Bumblebee Man offensive? Did you ever think he was a stereotype?
EL: The first time I saw Bumblebee Man I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. Because I knew he was based off of a real Mexican celebrity, Chespirito. When I was growing up, there were hardly any Latinos [on TV]. And knowing what they were basing it off of, I’m like, well they’re kind of staying true to what [Chespirito] was.
[Bumblebee Man] is a caricature of the stuff that’s on TV, which is very big and outrageous and goofy. So I was a bit confused. Because you never know if someone is laughing with you or laughing at you. But I wasn’t really mad at it so much. Because that’s how cartoons and animation are. You take someone and you make them a big character. And that’s what makes that character loveable.
“[Lopez] is my dad’s name, you know? That’s how I was raised. When someone calls your name, there’s pride in that.”
WAM: Other Latino actors, like Oscar Isaac for example, change their last name in order to avoid being typecast. Did you ever worry that your last name would prevent you from getting certain voiceover parts?
EL: It’s funny you ask that, because I remember when I went to join the union, they ask you what you want your stage name to be. I remember sitting there for like a good five minutes, like, ‘This is the name. It’s going to be onscreen and in credits and stuff. And if I do get known, this is going to be the name that I’m known for.’ And I sat there and I thought about [changing it] and I was like, there’s no way. What am I going to choose?
That’s my dad’s name, you know? That’s how I was raised. When someone calls your name, there’s pride in that, you know? If I ever won an award in school, or when I was playing football in school…it felt good to hear your name called. And that’s why I was like, no I’m keeping this name. And I don’t care. If I’m good enough, I’ll be good with my own name.
The episode features the first appearance of Bumblebee Man, who is a caricature of “El Chapulín Colorado” (“The Red Grasshopper”), a character created and portrayed by Mexican television comedian Roberto Gómez Bolaños. pic.twitter.com/OgKkV8zjv2— On This Day in Simpsons History (@dailysimpsons) November 4, 2019
“[We’re] getting more fleshed-out characters, not just tokens. As an actor, that’s what you want. You want depth, you don’t want shallow characters.”
WAM: How do you feel about the changes that the entertainment industry has made to be more inclusive?
EL: I know I’ve benefited a lot from it already. “The Simpsons” thing was just the icing on the cake. I was getting a lot of stuff already, because writers, creators, are trying to be more diverse. And they’re allowing people to write their stories now. So you’re getting more fleshed-out characters, not just tokens. As an actor, that’s what you want. You want depth, you don’t want shallow characters.
I was on “Glitch Techs” and my background, my history with my family, was basically what won me that role. The creator, Eric Robles, is a really great guy. He said that when he listened to my [audition], he felt that he could feel the love of family and it reminded him of his uncles when he was younger. And see, that’s what it is. It’s authenticity. When you’re casting characters like that, you need authenticity. Someone who has lived that history, that type of life.
“What could be bad about giving someone who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity, the opportunity? And allowing him or her to get out there and be seen or heard by the masses?”
WAM: How do you feel about the future of diverse casting in the voiceover world?
EL: As far as casting people based on diversity and based on their background, I don’t see a negative when it comes to that. What could be bad about giving someone who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity, the opportunity? And allowing him or her to get out there and be seen or heard by the masses? It opens people up.
I’ve been watching a lot of shows lately and I love that the stories are so good, such good human stories. You don’t care what color the person is, you just love the fact that they’re telling this person’s story. A good human story is always going to be better than one that’s just pandering.
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