After 33 years, Waylon Smithers, from the long-running animated show The Simpsons, is going to find himself a boyfriend.
The story unfolds on the next episode of the show, entitled Portrait of a Lackey on Fire, airing November 21.
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For many years, Smithers has nursed an unrequited love for his boss, the tyrannical and ancient Mr. Burns. The show hinted at Smithers’ sexuality for many years, but he finally came out in 2016.
In this week’s episode, Smithers (voiced by Harry Shearer) enters into a relationship with billionaire fashion designer Michael De Graaf, voiced by gay actor Victor Garber (Alias, Tales of the City, Family Law, among a long list of other credits).
“He’s charming and down to earth, and he loves that Smithers isn’t using him to get ahead in the fashion world,” executive producer Matt Selman told EW.
“Smithers doesn’t know anything about fashion. Smithers is a smart, hardworking, intelligent guy. Michael is tired of people from the New York fashion scene where everyone has an agenda. He wants that middle-America regular guy who isn’t about status and fashion stuff.”
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Garber, 72, told the New York Post, “I think it’s crucially important that these stories are acknowledged. 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.”
The Post also revealed last week that the episode received some comic gay input.
A long-running executive producer and writer for the show is Rob LaZebnik, 59. Smither’s coming-out episode was inspired by LaZebnik’s own gay son, Johnny.
Rob LaZebnik told the New York Post at the time, “I am a Midwestern guy, so I don’t tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve, but I thought, ‘What better way to tell my son I love him than to write a cartoon about it?’”
When it came to this latest episode, Rob decided to ask son Johnny, who is carving his own career as a comedian and TV writer, to help him write it.
Johnny LaZebnik, 27, called the opportunity to work with his dad on the episode, “spectacular and fulfilling.”
“I know my dad is a comedy writer. I grew up with him — obviously, I know he’s a funny guy. But actually 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.”
The Simpsons airs on Fox at 8pm each Sunday.