2018-04-25 14:59:16 UTC
Hank Azaria said Tuesday he is "willing to step aside" from voicing The
Simpsons' Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. The animated character, a Kwik-E-Mart owner
introduced in the 1990s, was recently the subject of Hari Kondabolu's TruTV
documentary, The Problem With Apu, which argued Apu perpetuates a harmful
stereotype of South Asian people. Azaria spoke to Stephen Colbert about his own
concerns about it when he appeared on CBS' The Late Show.
"It has come to my attention more and moreespecially the last couple of years,
as you saythat people in the South Asian community in this country have been
fairly upset by the voice and characterization of Apu," Azaria said, adding,
"It's sparked a lot of conversation about what should be done with the character
moving forward, which is not so easy to answer. I've tried to express this
before. You know, the idea that anybody who is young or old, past or present,
was bullied or teased based on the character of Apu, it just really makes me
sad. It certainly was not my intention. I wanted to bring laughter and joy with
this character. The idea that it's brought pain and sufferingin any waythat is
used to marginalize people, it is upsetting. Genuinely."
The actor also distanced himself from the show's controversial response to the
criticism. In The Simpsons' Apr. 8 episode, "No Good Read Goes Unpunished,"
Marge read a book to her daughter Lisa, which had been changed from its original
printing. "Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive
is now politically incorrect," Lisa said. "What can you do?" The show then
panned to a portrait of Apu, as a sort of wink to the audience.
Amid backlash, a spokesperson for 20th Century Fox said, "The episode speaks for
itself." The Simpsons' showrunner, Al Jean, tweeted in part, "I truly appreciate
all responses pro and con."