Much-loved animated comedy, The Simpsons, is set to air a historic storyline that will see Waylon Smithers enter his first on-screen gay relationship since the character came out on the show in 2016. Smithers, who is Mr Burns’ longtime assistant, will start a romance with billionaire fashion mogul, Michael De Graff, in an episode entitled ‘Portrait Of A Lackey On Fire’.
The episode is due to come out on November 21, with the synopsis reading: “Smithers finds true love with a famous fashion designer, but will his new relationship destroy Springfield?”
The groundbreaking storyline has been penned by series writer Rob LaZebnik along with his gay son Johnny, who was the inspiration behind Smithers’ coming out in 2016. When that episode first aired five years ago, Mr Lazebnik said: “What better way to tell my son I love him than to write a cartoon about it?”
This time around, LaZebnik said that “to be able to work with Johnny on this was, like, such a dream and to be able to see how truly funny and talented he is was just, you know, super fun and rewarding.”
— Johnny LaZebnik (@jlazebnik) October 30, 2021
Johnny shared similar feelings with regards to working with his father on The Simpsons, saying “getting to sit down and write jokes with him was so much fun.
“And there were some moments where I was like, ‘Dad, that’s disgusting – we can’t put that on television,’ which I didn’t expect to be saying because I’m usually the disgusting one.
“We now have this piece of content that we put into the world together that is a combined brainpower of the two of us.”
Having Johnny involved with the writing of this queer storyline will hopefully give it an authenticity that may have been lacking without his input.
“So often, gay romances are a subplot or alluded to or shown in some kind of montage or as a punchline,” he says.
“What I think I was really excited about, with this episode, we get to see – without spoiling too much – the beginning middle and who knows how it ends of a gay relationship. Of really getting into the nitty-gritty of how gay people date, how they meet, what it’s like. That was really special to me to get to highlight characters who are not punchlines, who are fully formed.”
Victor Garber, who will voice Smithers’ love interest, said: “I haven’t played a lot of gay characters, but every time I do it, it brings back certain feelings I had as a young actor where I couldn’t be gay.”
He also commented that “it’s crucially important that these stories are acknowledged.”
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