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Family Guy is taking a few shots at the anti-vaccination movement, and a very recognizable face — and voice — will help with the needling: Sean Penn.
The Oscar-winning actor/activist is playing himself in an upcoming episode of the animated Fox comedy, EW has learned exclusively. The plot involves Peter and Lois deciding not to vaccinate Stewie, much to Brian’s chagrin. But when there’s a pandemic in Quahog, Penn must persuade the Griffin parents that it would be a big mistake to listen to the anti-vaccination propaganda.
“Brian is, as you would expect, incredulous that Peter and Lois would fall for, as Peter says, Dr. Jenny McCarthy,” quips Family Guy executive producer Richard Appel. “But Brian alone is unable to persuade them. And then, when things go from bad to worse and Stewie is in true jeopardy, Sean Penn saves Stewie, and in doing so, delivers the moral of the episode. He literally parachutes to the rescue.”
Although Penn hasn’t done any TV guest spots since 2004 (when he appeared on Two and a Half Men and, yes, Viva La Bam), Appel heard that the actor was a Family Guy fan and decided to offer him a guest gig anyway, which he graciously accepted. “He’s very funny in the episode and was very game,” notes Appel. “So often when we are lucky enough to work with really talented people who also happen to be really successful, they’re the most modest and the most open to direction. He was like that.”
It turned out to be a true family affair, as Penn’s son, Hopper, also contributed voicework to the episode. “His son is in a different, very funny cutaway, as a charismatic cult leader, and the only thing that Hopper’s character and Sean Penn’s character have in common is they both have beautiful hair,” says Appel. “Sean Penn, of course, is designed to have his actual beautiful, flowing hair.” (You can enjoy his mane in this first-look image above.)
Penn — whose first significant TV role arrives next year when he stars as Andrew Jackson in the HBO miniseries American Lion — has been portrayed on the show previously; he was voiced by Seth Green.
The episode featuring Penn, which is titled “Hot Shots,” will air this fall. The new season kicks off Sept. 25.
Other upcoming guests on Family Guy include Kyle Chandler, David Tennant, Flea, Jacob Tremblay, Steph Curry, and Rob Gronkowski. To watch a preview of season 15, including a scene in which Bill Cosby and Stewie remake The Princess Bride, click here.
From now until our huge fall TV preview hits newsstands Sept. 9, EW is bringing you 50 scoops in 50 days. Follow the hashtag #50Scoops50Days on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with the latest, and check EW.com/50Scoops50Days for all the news and surprises.