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'Simpsons' Actor Disputes Fox on Reason for Leaving

Television * Her character, Maude Flanders, may be killed off in upcoming show. She says request for raise was refused.

February 04, 2000|PAUL BROWNFIELD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As Fox's long-running animated hit "The Simpsons" gets set to kill off a character during February sweeps, the actress who voiced the role of Maude Flanders is saying her character's rumored demise is a case of death-by-corporate-greed.

Maggie Roswell, who played Maude, wife of Simpsons neighbor and Christian do-gooder Ned Flanders, says she left the show last spring because 20th Century Fox Television, the studio that produces "The Simpsons," refused to give her a raise. In previous reports on Roswell's departure, Fox has said the actress left the show because she no longer wanted to commute to Los Angeles from her Denver home.

"There's a presence that I helped create in Springfield," said Roswell, referring to the show's hometown. An actress and writer from Los Angeles, Roswell has lived the last four years in Denver, where she and her husband run a recording studio for voice-over work. Before leaving the show last spring, she had been with "The Simpsons" since its inception as a prime-time series in 1989.

In addition to Maude Flanders, Roswell voiced other Springfield residents, including Helen Lovejoy, wife of Rev. Lovejoy, and Miss Hoover, one of Lisa Simpsons' schoolteachers. This season Maude's appearances on the show have been minimal, with another voice actress filling in.

"Simpsons" producers haven't revealed who will be rubbed out in the show's Feb. 13 episode, but the show's title provides a potential clue that Maude will be offed. The episode is called "Alone Again, Natura-Diddly," a reference to Ned Flanders' particular way of speaking.

Mike Scully, executive producer of the show, was in transit and could not be reached for comment.

Roswell's contract grievance isn't new to "The Simpsons"--or to Fox, which has seen squabbles with actors go public on other shows, including "The X-Files." Two years ago, the five major voice actors on "The Simpsons"--Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Harry Shearer (Mr. Burns, Smithers) and Hank Azaria (Moe the bartender, Chief Wiggum, Apu)--held out for big raises, eventually winning multimillion-dollar packages to stay on the show.

Roswell, by contrast, says she was asking for $6,000 an episode--an increase from the $1,500 to $2,000 an episode she earned the last three seasons for her recurring guest voices, she said. When Fox offered a raise of $150, she decided to quit, because the raise didn't even cover the cost of having to fly to Los Angeles to record her portions of the scripts, she said. Pamela Hayden, who voices the role of Bart's friend Milhouse, threatened a similar walkout earlier this season before getting a raise.

Roswell's tactics, however, fell short, perhaps proving what "Simpsons" fans may discover Feb. 13--that Maude is an expendable character.

"I was part of the backbone of 'The Simpsons,' and I didn't think [the requested raise] was exorbitant," Roswell said. "I wasn't asking for what the other cast members make. I was just trying to recoup all the costs I had in travel. If they'd flown me in, I'd still be working."

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