By Dan Snierson
Updated October 11, 2013 at 06:51 PM EDT
Credit: Matt Groening/Fox

Simpsons executive producer Al Jean turned a few non-animated heads recently when he mentioned that the long-running comedy is planning to kill off one of its characters. His big clue? He/she is voiced by an actor who won an Emmy for this role. (That seems to limit our victim pool to a character played by Anne Hathaway, Kelsey Grammer, Marcia Wallace, Jackie Mason, or any of the series regulars with the exception of Harry Shearer. Yes, Shearer — the voice of Mr. Burns, Smithers, Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, Kent Brockman and Reverend Lovejoy, among others — has never won an Emmy for his Simpsons work. Express your outrage below.)

Given that the death of a familiar face is not a common occurrence in Springfield (R.I.P., Maude Flanders, Fat Tony, Mona Simpson, Bleeding Gums Murphy), EW tried to squeeze more precious info out of Jean. Alas, the show runner wouldn’t reveal how integral the character is to the series, other than to say that he/she has appeared more than twice on the show. Jean was tight-lipped on why the character was marked for death, though he did note: “It’s an emotional story.” Pressed for details on the manner in which this character is dispatched, he responded: “It’s funny.”

Would he at least tell us how the voice actor reacted to the news that his/her character was not long for this world? “They don’t know yet,” he admitted. (So, Simpsons fans, you’re not the only ones in the dark right now. ) Hope you don’t mind waiting for the resolution to this mystery: The episode is tentatively slated to run next fall as the season 26 premiere, according to Jean. Until then, beware of those misdirects. “We’ll be putting out a lot of false leads in the coming months to try to trick people into watching the premiere,” he adds.

This may or may not be the first one: “It’ll be bigger than ‘Who shot J.R.?’,” quips Jean, “but not as big as ‘Who Shot Mr. Burns?'”

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