Hank Azaria may have finally settled the debate surrounding The Simpsons' handling of Apu once and for all, and his solution could involve him leaving the role for good.
For nearly 30 years, The Simpsons character by the name of Apu (Azaria) has been little more than a stereotype of Indian people in America. The convenience store clerk has become an increasingly controversial figure for a long time, but the conversation picked up significantly last year when comedian and filmmaker Hari Kondabolu created a documentary called The Problem with Apu, which highlights the fact that Apu is the most popular South Asian character in pop culture.
The show attempted to address the controversy recently, but it wasn't received well by most viewers, and only furthered the problem.
When Azaria appeared on The Late Show last night, host Stephen Colbert asked the actor how he would solve the problem facing the show and what he would do to begin righting the wrongs set forth by Apu. Azaria then said that the problem needed to be addressed by genuine voices in the writers' room and that, if they felt it was necessary, he would step away from the role entirely in order to do right by the group of people being represented by Apu.
"I've given this a lot of thought, really a lot of thought," Azaria began. "As I say, my eyes have been opened, 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. And as you know, in television terms, listening to voices means inclusion in the writers' room. I really want to see Indian [or] South Asian writer/writers in the room. Not in a token way, but genuinely informing whatever new direction this character may take, including how it is voiced or not voiced. I'm perfectly willing and happy to step aside or help transition it into something new. I really hope that's what The Simpsons does. It just, it not only makes sense, but it just feels like the right thing to do, to me."
Azaria pretty much hit the nail on the head. Issues need to be addressed in the writers' rooms. It also says a lot that the actor is willing to completely step away from the role if that's what it takes.
The ball is now officially in The Simpsons' court, and only time will reveal what they choose to do with Apu going forward.