Three years after a documentary brought new scrutiny upon the character Apu on “The Simpsons,” Hank Azaria has said that he will no longer voice the role.
The actor confirmed the news to /Film after a Television Critics Association panel for his IFC show “Brockmire.”
“All we know there is that I won’t be doing the voice anymore, unless there’s some way to transition it or something,” Azaria told the entertainment site of the show’s Indian-born convenience-storeowner,whose full name is Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.
“We all made the decision together,” Azaria added. “We all agreed on it. We all feel like it’s the right thing and good about it.”
A representative for “The Simpsons” told The Washington Post on Friday that the show had no comment on Azaria’s remarks. Representatives for Azaria, who voices many characters in the show, did not immediately return The Post’s requests for comment.
In 2017, Brooklyn comedian Hari Kondabolu debuted his documentary “The Problem With Apu,” which explored whether the heavily accented South Asian character propagated harmful stereotypes. He says in the film that Apu is “a white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father.”
“You start to feel embarrassed to be an Indian,” the filmmaker told The Post of such characterizations. “Because there’s only one representation.”
The show’s apparent response to the documentary came in an April 2018 episode, titled “No Good Read Goes Unpunished.” Lisa Simpson asks: “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” The show then cuts to a signed Apu photo on the family nightstand with an inscription that reads: “Don’t have a cow,” one of Bart Simpson’s catchphrases.
Some cultural critics interpreted the show’s stance as one of smug indifference. Kondabolu tweeted that the show’s response to the Apu criticism was a “sad” turn and lamented that the “Simpsons” producers seemed to view the issue as only one of political correctness.
Days after that controversial 2018 episode aired, Azaria, an Emmy winner for his voice work on “The Simpsons,” called for greater cultural diversity and sensitivity on the show, during an appearance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” to promote “Brockmire.”
“My eyes have been opened,” Azaria told Colbert. “And I think the most important thing is, we have to listen to South Asian people, Indian people, in this country, when they talk about what they feel and how they think about this character. And what their American experience of it has been.”
Added Azaria: “I’m perfectly happy and willing to step aside or help transition it into something new. I really hope that’s what this instance does. It not only makes sense – it just feels like the right thing to do to me.”