The Simpsons voice actor ready to "step aside" from controversial Apu role
Hank Azaria said no longer voicing the character or helping Apu through a transition "feels like the right thing to do"
Hank Azaria, the actor who’s voiced Apu Nahasapeemapetilon since 1990, has said he’s “perfectly willing to step aside” from The Simpsons character.
Appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Azaria addressed the controversy surrounding Springfield’s Kwik-E-Mart owner after the documentary The Problem with Apu argued that the cartoon led to widespread stereotyping of south Asian people.
“I think the most important thing is to listen to Indian people and their experience with it,” Azaria said. “I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the writers' room. Not in a token way, but genuinely informing whatever new direction [Apu] may take. Including how it is voiced, or not voiced.”
“I’m perfectly happy and willing to step aside,” he continued. “Or help transition it into something new. I really hope that’s what The Simpsons does. It not only makes sense, it just feels like the right thing to do, to me.
“The idea that anyone young or old, past or present, being bullied based on Apu really makes me sad. It certainly was not my intention. I wanted to bring joy and laughter to people.”
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The Simpsons, America’s longest-running sitcom, was widely criticised for its handling of the controversy in a recent episode. A scene in No Good Read Goes Unpunished saw Lisa tell audiences: “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”. A photo of Apu then made its way on screen, inscribed with the words “don’t have a cow”.
After fans like Hari Kondabolu, the maker of The Problem with Apu, condemned the “sad” scene, Simpsons boss Al Jean said he would “try to find an answer that is popular & more important right”.
“I had nothing to do with the writing or the voicing [in that episode],” said Azaria about The Simpson’s response. “I think if anyone came away from that segment thinking they need to lighten up… that’s definitely not the message that I want to send.
“I’ve given this a lot of thought, and, as I say, my eyes have been opened."