It appears that Apu Nahasapeemapetilon may be sounding a bit different next year on The Simpsons.
Actor Hank Azaria confirmed this week that he will no longer voice the convenience store owner on The Simpsons after a documentary highlighted the effects that the stereotypical character has had on people of Indian heritage. The long-running animated show addressed the controversy in an episode after the documentary aired and appeared to be standing behind the character, but Azaria said that they have since come to a decision that he would no longer voice Apu.
“All we know there is I won’t be doing the voice any more, unless there’s some way to transition it or something,” Azaria said, via Slashfilm. “We all made the decision together. We all agreed on it. We all feel like it’s the right thing and good about it.”
The Apu character has been at the center of controversy since the release of the documentary The Problem With Apu by comedian Hari Kondabolu. The documentary said that the character portrayed a negative stereotype of people from south Asia, and that the character became a conduit for mockery for people with southern Asian heritage.
A number of actors and celebrities came forward to say that they were mocked by being called “Apu,” and Kondabolu said the character set them up to be ridiculed.
“There are a billion reasons to love The Simpsons and Apu was one of them,” Kondabolu told The Guardian. “But when you sit in high school, which is, I think for most of us, the lowest point in our lives, you realize [Apu] was a tool for kids to go after you. And this was perfect, right? A caricature with this ridiculous accent that nobody has.”
Azaria said it was not clear what would actually happen to Apu’s character, though show creator Matt Groening has already said that Apu will remain on the show.
Azaria had already offered to stop voicing the character. Back in April 2018, Azaria said in an interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert that he would be “perfectly willing and happy to step aside or turn [the character] into something new,” though no changes came in the next season. Azaria had also suggested using the character in a way to combat racial stereotypes and the marginalization of people with Indian heritage. Supporters of the show claimed that while Azaria may have used an exaggerated voice for Apu, the show approached him in a mostly sensitive way and showed Apu and his family in a positive light.