The Simpsons actor Hank Azaria, who has provided the voice for Apu Nahasapeemapetilon for 28 years, says he is “willing to step aside” from his role voicing the Simpson’s character.
“The idea that anyone young or old, past or present, being bullied based on Apu really makes me sad,” speaking on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. “It certainly was not my intention. I wanted to bring joy and laughter to people.”
The voicing for Apu Nahasapeemapetilon has grown much more controversial following a documentary made by Indian-American comic Hari Kondabolu that argued the Indian character is based on racial stereotypes. “The Problem With Apu” includes interviews with actors Aziz Ansari, Kal Penn, Maulik Pancholy, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Samrat Chakrabarti, Sakina Jaffrey, Aasif Mandvi and Hasan Minhaj, who say they were called “Apu” as children in ridicule or being asked to deliver lines “like Apu from The Simpsons” during auditions.
Apu, who was the only character of South Asian heritage to appear regularly on mainstream American television when The Simpsons debuted in 1989, is presented as a stereotypical Indian, the Kwik-E-Mart owner with an over-the-top accent.
Azaria told Colbert that he could be replaced by an Indian or south Asian actor and called for more diverse voices in the show’s writing room.