The Simpsons made history when it featured American Sign Language and a deaf voice actor for the first time ever in an episode, which premiered Sunday.
The episode, which is titled “The Sound of Bleeding Gums,” focuses on Lisa discovering that her mentor, the late saxophonist Bleeding Gums Murphy, had a son who was born deaf named Monk. Lisa ends up befriending Monk, who is played by deaf actor John Autry II.
“It’s so incredible,” Autry told Variety about his guest role. “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.”
Additionally, writer Loni Steele Sosthand sought inspiration from her family to bring the episode to life. “I’m mixed race; my father’s Black and jazz was big in our house,” Sosthand told the outlet. “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.”