The Simpsons Star Hank Azaria Apologizes for His Portrayal of Apu

It's been over a year since it was announced in January 2020 that Hank Azaria would no longer voice The Simpsons character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon and now, Azaria is apologizing for his decades voicing the character which has come under scrutiny for its problematic depiction of Indian people. In a recent episode of the Armchair Expert podcast hosted by Dax Shepard and Monica Padman (via The Wrap), Azaria said that he feels like he needs to apologize to every single Indian person for his part in the harmful stereotype Apu furthered.

"I really do apologize," Azaria said. "It's important. I apologize for my part in creating that and participating in that. Part of me feels like I need to go to every single Indian person in this country and personally apologize. And sometimes I do."

Last January, Azaria announced that he would no longer voice Apu on the long-running animated series. The decision came after the documentary The Problem With Apu brought to light the complex feelings that many Indian Americans have toward the character with the conversation around Apu revealing that the character is seen as not only dated, but a racist and harmful caricature. It's that view of Apu that Azaria also said that since stepping away from the role, he's come to understand thanks to a conversation with a 17-year-old student at his son's school.

"He's never even seen The Simpsons but knows what Apu means," Azaria said. "It's practically a slur at this point. All he knows is that is how his people are thought of and represented to many people in this country."

Azaria added that the student asked him to speak up about the matter, asking "'Will you please tell the writers in Hollywood that what they do and what they come up with really matters in people's lives and has consequences?'"

While Azaria is no longer voicing Apu, The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has indicated that he has plans for the character, recently telling USA Today that they're "working on something kind of ambitious" for the character before saying that he is proud of Apu.

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"I think the Apu stories are fantastic, and he's one of the most nuanced characters on a silly two-dimensional cartoon show. So, yeah, I'm proud of Apu," Groening said. "I'm trying not to open up another chasm of criticism, but it doesn't matter what I say. I'll get it anyway."

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