Hank Azaria revealed in a new interview that he will no longer voice the character of Apu on The Simpsons. The actor’s departure from the role follows a swell of backlash against the Indian-American convenience store owner and the stereotypes it furthered on the long-running animated series.
“All we know there is I won’t be doing the voice anymore, unless there’s someway to transition it or something,” Azaria told Slash Film of Apu.
Although Azaria would no longer voice the character, The Simpsons weren’t necessarily removing Apu from Springfield: Slash Film suggests producers could recast the character with an Indian actor.
“What they’re going to do with the character is their call,” Azaria said. “It’s up to them and they haven’t sorted it out yet. All we’ve agreed on is I won’t do the voice anymore.”
In 2017, comedian Hari Kondabalu released the documentary The Problem With Apu that pinpointed his issues with the character. “For the longest time, Apu was the most prominent representation of South Asian Americans, and despite how much our society has changed in the last three decades, the character persists today,” Kondabalu said at the time of the documentary’s release.
Six months later — after The Simpsons itself shrugged off the Apu controversy — Azaria addressed the situation during an appearance on the Late Show. “And I’ve tried to express this before: You know the idea that anybody – young or old, past or present – was bullied or teased based on the character of Apu, it just really makes me sad,” Azaria said. “It was certainly not my attention, I wanted to spread laughter and joy with this character. And the idea that it’s brought pain and suffering in any way, that it’s used to marginalize people, it’s upsetting, genuinely.”
Now, midway through the series’ 31st season, Azaria said that he and producers mutually agreed that he no longer voice Apu. “We all feel like it’s the right thing and good about it,” the actor said.
“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 at least spare me some death threats,” Kondabolu tweeted Friday. “My documentary ‘The Problem with Apu’ was not made to get rid of a dated cartoon character, but to discuss race, representation & my community (which I love very much). It was also about how you can love something (like the Simpsons) & still be critical about aspects of it (Apu).”
Kondabolu added, “Most people who saw the documentary like it & those that didn’t see it…hate it. You can see it on Amazon, truTV app & other places. Feel free to watch it by legal or illegal means. I don’t get paid more either way & it’s the message of the film that has the most value to me.”