After years of complaints from fans, actor Hank Azari will no longer provide the voice of Apu on The Simpsons. For more than 30 seasons, the actor has provided the convenience store clerk with a character that plays into a number of Indian stereotypes, with fans taking issue with the character not only due to those stereotypes, but also with how this caricature has become so popular while so few other representations of South Asian exist in popular media. The actor didn't specify what the future would hold for the character and if someone else would voice him, but Azaria is stepping away from the role.
“All we know there is I won’t be doing the voice anymore, unless there’s some way to transition it or something," Azaria confirmed to /Film.
Controversy has surrounded the character for years, with comedian and filmmaker Hari Kondabolu's documentary The Problem with Apu bringing the issue to the forefront of conversations surrounding the character. In recent years, the show's cast and crew have regularly been asked about how to handle the situation, though none have offered concrete answers.
“What they’re going to do with the character is their call,” Azaria pointed out. “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.”
The closest creator Matt Groening has come to addressing the issue officially is a 2018 episode seeing Lisa and Marge Simpson talking about depictions of characters no longer being appropriate in contemporary culture, though the sequence left most audiences frustrated at the non-committal response of how Apu would be handled going forward.
“We all made the decision together,” Azaria admitted. “We all agreed on it. We all feel like it’s the right thing and good about it.”
Azaria has long said he was willing to step away from the character, though it is currently unclear why it took so long for the show's producers to address the issue.
“I think it’s really important when people express themselves about racial issues, what they feel is unfair or upsetting or distressing or makes them angry, sad or hurt,” Azaria shared at the Television Critics Association press event in 2018. “The most important thing to do is listen, try to understand, try to sympathize, which is what I’m doing. I know that The Simpsons guys are doing that too; they’re giving it a lot of thought, and we’ve discussed a little bit. They will definitely address —
Stay tuned for details on Apu's future in The Simpsons.
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