Hank Azaria officially announced back in January that he would no longer be voicing the character of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon on The Simpsons, following years of controversy surrounding the Kwik-E-Mart proprietor. The Apu controversy was intensified following the release of Hari Kondabolu’s 2017 documentary THE PROBLEM WITH APU, which explained why Apu is an offensive stereotype of South Asian peoples, and Hank Azaria took notice.
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While speaking with the New York Times, Hank Azaria noted that his initial reaction to the controversy “was to bristle,” but he soon began to grow uneasy after exploring issues of racism and representation. Azaria also noted that one of his inspirations for Apu, Peter Sellers‘ brown-face performance in THE PARTY, only added to the unease. “That represents a real blind spot I had,” Azaria said. “There I am, joyfully basing a character on what was already considered quite upsetting… Once I realized that that was the way this character was thought of, I just didn’t want to participate in it anymore. What happened with this character is a window into an important issue. It’s a good way to start the conversation. I can be accountable and try to make up for it as best I can.” The actor then approached producers of The Simpsons last year to explain that he was no longer comfortable voicing Apu.
When I expressed how uncomfortable I was doing the voice of the character, they were very sympathetic and supportive. We were all in agreement.
THE PROBLEM WITH APU’s Hari Kondabolu told the Times, “Whatever happens with the character, to me, is secondary. I’m happy that Hank did the work that a lot of people wouldn’t have. I feel like he’s a really thoughtful person and he got the bigger picture.” It’s not certain what this means for the character of Apu, whether he will be retired or if another voice actor will be brought in to voice the role, but in a statement, The Simpsons’ producers said, “We respect Hank’s journey in regard to Apu. We have granted his wish to no longer voice the character,” adding that “Apu is beloved worldwide. We love him too. Stay tuned.“