The actor who voices “The Simpsons” character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon has said he’s willing to “step aside” from the role following the recent controversy surrounding the show.
Hank Azaria, 54, who voices numerous “Simpsons” characters and has starred on the show since 1989, was praised by fans after discussing the recent criticism of the character Apu during an appearance on Tuesday’s “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”.
Calling on the show to employ more South Asian writers, the actor shared, “The idea that anybody was bullied or teased based on the character of Apu, it just really makes me sad.
“It was certainly not my intention, I wanted to spread laughter and joy with this character. The idea that it’s brought pain and suffering in any way, that it was used to marginalize people, it’s upsetting genuinely.”
Colbert, 53, then brought up “The Simpsons” April 7 episode, which saw Lisa discuss a new edition of The Princess in the Garden that had to be altered to make it inoffensive in 2018.
The character said on the show: “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” before the camera cut to a shot of a signed photo of Apu with the words, “Don’t have a cow, man.”
Marge then added, “Some things will be dealt with at a later date,” to which Lisa replied: “If at all.”
Colbert explained that the reason fans were so upset was because it looked like bosses were willing to overlook the entire thing, to which Azaria said: “I’ve given this a lot of thought, really a lot of thought, and, 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.”
He continued, “As you know, in television terms listening to voices means inclusion in the writers’ room. I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the room, not in a token way, but genuinely informing whatever new direction this character takes, 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 not only makes sense but it just feels like the right thing to do to me.”
Azaria’s appearance sparked quite the response on Twitter, with many people, including “The Problem With Apu” documentary-maker Hari Kondabolu, thanking him for addressing the controversy.
See some of the responses below. “The Simpsons” airs Sundays on Global, and don’t miss “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”, airing weeknights at 11:35 p.m. ET/PT on Global. You can also watch full episodes online.