“The Simpsons” will feature a deaf actor on Sunday for the first time in its 722-episode run.
The new episode, “The Sound of Bleeding Gums,” focuses on Lisa Simpson, who discovers that her hero and favorite musician, the late saxophonist Bleeding Gums Murphy, has a son who’s deaf and needs a cochlear implant.
Bleeding Gums (voiced primarily by Ron Taylor) died in the Season Six episode “Round Springfield,” which aired in 1995. His son, Monk, will be voiced by John Autry II.
The storyline of Sunday’s episode was spearheaded by show writer Loni Steele Sosthand, whose brother, Eli Steele, is deaf, CNN reported.
Although humans in the “Simpsons” world only have four fingers to a hand, they’ll use American Sign Language in the episode.
Producers conferred with two ASL specialists about the signs the characters would use, Sosthand told CNN. The specialists looked at early versions of the episode’s visuals to make sure the four-fingered signing would still be intelligible.
“That was a little tricky, especially because the one thing we’re translating is Shakespeare,” Sosthand told Variety. “But I think we pulled it off.”
The groundbreaking episode comes two weeks after “CODA” won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. CODA stands for “Child of Deaf Adults,” and the film, written and directed by Sian Heder, is about a teenage girl navigating life while growing up as the only hearing member of her family.
“Simpsons” executive producer Al Jean noted on Twitter Thursday that the episode airing so soon after “CODA’s” win is just a coincidence.