Years from now, we’ll all look back fondly on those crazy couple of weeks when Harry Shearer had apparently left The Simpsons and his 20+ voices behind over ambiguous contract issues. That said, don’t let Harry Shearer know you suspect it all smoke and mirrors. It “wasn’t a stunt,” he’s super-serious!

Speaking to The Guardian, Shearer insisted “There were real issues that had to be resolved and they were,” prefacing that with “All I can say is, it wasn’t a stunt.” If you’ll recall, executive producer Al Jean expressed his bewilderment with Shearer’s complaints at the time, insisting the voice behind Flanders, Mr. Burns and other beloved Simpsons characters had the same open schedule as his revered castmates.

Still, Shearer offered of his relationship with showbusiness:

The real danger to me in working in this business is if you become tired of or contemptuous of the audience, it shows. If you give the audience a bunch of different things, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the reason [they remember you] … I’m lucky that I can walk down the street and maybe one person will recognize me from The Simpsons, and another person with recognize me from Spinal Tap, and it’s always surprising. […]

I always thought as a kid, if you – and the reason that I sort of stayed away from doing one character on a sitcom is – if you’re doing one thing all the time, the audience is going to come up to you and say the one thing all the time.

Shearer’s new (or old?) deal runs for four seasons (including options for Season 29 and 30), estimated at upwards of $300,000 per episode. Production had officially commenced on Season 27 without Shearer, though Simpsons fans will only endure a small absence of such characters as Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, Kent Brockman, Reverend Lovejoy and more. FOX also already had its first seven episodes in the can prior to Shearer’s exit.

We’ve certainly seen the strategy of negotiating through the press work (as recently as Channing Tatum’s Gambit deal), but was something larger at play through Shearer’s exit and return? How long before one of our beloved Simpsons stars really needs replacing?

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