One of The Simpsons‘ longest-running gags across its 33 seasons is the unrequited love between Waylon Smithers and his cold, distant boss Mr. Burns.
After coming out as gay in 2016, an upcoming episode will finally see Smithers transferring his affections elsewhere — from one mature billionaire to another.
Fashion mogul Michael De Graaf, voiced by acclaimed gay actor Victor Garber, makes his first appearance in this Sunday’s episode, “Portrait of a Lackey on Fire.”
In a teaser previewed by Entertainment Weekly, De Graaf — alongside Homer — meets Smithers to claim a dog and potentially negotiate an art sale for Mr. Burns’ private collection.
After De Graaf compliments the workaholic Smithers on his Mandarin, Homer unsubtly suggests that De Graaf is interested in Mr. Burns’ long-suffering assistant.
Smithers describes himself as sweet, shy, and looking to be loved, leading De Graaf to invite him to dinner and call him talented, smart, and “hot, in a 1960s Cape Canaveral kind of way.”
“[Michael is] charming and down to earth, and he loves that Smithers isn’t using him to get ahead in the fashion world,” The Simpsons executive producer Matt Selman told EW.
“Smithers doesn’t know anything about fashion. Smithers is a smart, hardworking, intelligent guy,” he continued. “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.”
Selman called Smithers’ love life a “blank slate” and said The Simpsons had “moved away from him being completely obsessed with Mr. Burns all the time.”
Smithers had previously fallen for another man, Julio, but the pair’s romance was short-lived after he struggled to abandon his feelings for Mr. Burns.
Garber told the New York Post that it was “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,” he said.
Garber said voicing De Graaf was “kind of a reminder of how much things have changed and also how I’ve evolved. In my journey to find self-acceptance, self-love, it’s a definite significant part of it.”
“Portrait of a Lackey on Fire” airs Sunday, Nov. 21, on Fox.
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