'The Simpsons' Features First Deaf Voice Actor and Use of ASL in Upcoming Episode

Actor John Autry II will be the first deaf voice actor to appear on The Simpsons in Sunday's upcoming episode, titled "The Sound of Bleeding Gums"

The Simpsons
Photo: 20th Television

The Simpsons is set to make history this weekend as it prepares to feature the series' first deaf voice actor John Autry II, as well at the first use of American Sign Language to be seen on the show.

Sunday's upcoming episode of the long-running cartoon, titled "The Sound of Bleeding Gums," will follow Lisa Simpson as she chases down the deaf son of her favorite saxophone player, Bleeding Gums Murphy, to help him get a cochlear implant.

Sequences of ASL will be shown throughout the episode, and Autry will voice the character of Monk, marking the first time a deaf actor has voiced any character on the show in its almost 33-year history.

"It's so incredible," Autry told Variety about the experience. "It's life-changing equality and participation. This can impact change for all of us. It's about hard of hearing and hearing characters coming together. It's a part of history."

Written by Loni Steele Sosthand, the episode touches home for the writer who grew up with jazz music as a large part of her childhood, as well as with a brother who was born deaf.

"I'm mixed-race; my father's Black and jazz was big in our house," Sosthand, who joined The Simpsons in 2020, told Variety. "We grew up in the suburbs, and it was a way for my dad to bring in that aspect of our culture. But when I think about music, I also think about my brother, who was born deaf. When we were talking about this Bleeding Gums character in our initial brainstorms, we thought, wouldn't it be cool if Lisa discovers this whole other side of his life. That led to him having a son, and then we based that character at least somewhat on my brother. And the story grew from there."

RELATED VIDEO: CODA's Emilia Jones, Daniel Durant & Amy Forsyth Describe How They 'Really Became Like a Family'

The groundbreaking episode comes on the heels of deaf actor Troy Kotsur's historic Oscars win last month, when he took home the Best Supporting Actor trophy for his work in CODA — the film that ultimately took home the Best Picture Oscar as well.

"I was an early viewer of CODA and really admire the movie," Sosthand said. "There are themes in it that are somewhat echoed here, coming out of a sibling relationship. And also CODA has the tension between music and the deaf experience. I think it's great because the Deaf experience isn't just one story, there are so many stories to be told."

The Simpsons' "The Sound of Bleeding Gums" episode is scheduled to premiere on Sunday, April 10.

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