White comedian Hank Azaria says he will no longer voice Indian character Apu in The Simpsons, a role he has performed since 1990.
The move follows years of controversy, with many accusing the Kwik-E-Mart owner of being a problematic stereotype of South Asians.
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It is not currently clear if Apu will be voiced by another actor or dropped altogether from the show.
“All we know is I won’t be doing the voice anymore, unless there’s some way to transition it or something,” Azaria told Slashfilm.
“We all made the decision together … We all agreed on it. We all feel like it’s the right thing and good about it.”
The controversy surrounding the character – best known for his catchphrase “thank you, come again!” – intensified in 2017 following the documentary The Problem With Apu, written by and starring comedian Hari Kondabolu.
Kondabolu argued that the shopkeeper was reinforcing negative stereotypes and highlighted how Apu was voiced by a white man with no experience of such discrimination.
After the documentary was released, Azaria – who also voices several other Simpsons characters, including Moe Szyslak and Chief Wiggum – said he found it “very upsetting to me personally and professionally” that anyone was marginalised because of Apu.
Kondabolu welcomed the news, but added he hoped Apu would continue to feature in the show.
If @HankAzaria is indeed no longer doing the voice of Apu, I do hope they keep the character & let a very talented writing staff do something interesting with him. If not to better the show, then to atleast spare me some death threats.
— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) January 17, 2020
He added: “My documentary The Problem with Apu was not made to get rid of a dated cartoon character, but to discuss race, representation and my community (which I love very much).
“It was also about how you can love something (like the Simpsons) and still be critical about aspects of it (Apu).”