Hank Azaria Confirms He Will No Longer Voice Apu
Hank Azaria has been voicing the idiosyncratic citizens of Springfield on The Simpsons for nearly three decades, but there’s one character he won’t be voicing anymore.
He announced last month that he will be retiring Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, an Indian immigrant and owner of the Kwik-E-Mart. In a new interview with The New York Times, Azaria detailed why he felt it was best to step down from the character, whose depiction in the show had been receiving backlash for years. “What happened with this character is a window into an important issue,” Azaria said. “It’s a good way to start the conversation. I can be accountable and try to make up for it as best I can.”
Initially Azaria pushed back against such criticism against Apu. He reasoned that on The Simpsons they “make fun of everyone,” so no one should take offense to the stereotypes on the show. But in 2017, South Asian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu made a documentary for truTV called The Problem With Apu, in which he interviewed Indian-American actors about their relationship with the character. The documentary’s purpose was to show how such marginalized representation on screen was damaging to the culture being portrayed for laughs.
Since then, Azaria has been paying more attention to the greater cultural conversation surrounding Apu. He explained that he thought about the character in context of his own identity as a white Jewish man. While he wouldn’t be offended by seeing a Jewish stereotype on The Simpsons, he stated: “If that character were the only representation of Jewish people in American culture for 20 years, which was the case with Apu, I might not love that.”
The show itself has not stated what the future holds for Apu. In a statement to the Times about Apu’s fate — whether the character will be completely retired or voiced by a new actor, they simply said “Apu is beloved worldwide. We love him too. Stay tuned.”
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