Hank Azaria has responded to the criticism of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, one of the many characters he has voiced on The Simpsons for numerous years.
The writing and performance behind Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu came under fire last year, when comedian Hari Kondabolu released a documentary entitled The Problem With Apu. Kondabolu’s film criticised the character as being a racial stereotype, with an unrealistic accent, who isn’t a fair representation of South Asian people living in America.
Speaking to Stephen Colbert, Apu actor Azaria said this in reaction to the documentary and the uproar that it caused:
“My eyes have been opened and I think the most important thing is we have to listen to South Asian people, Indian people in this country when they talk what they feel and how they think about this character and what their American experience of it has been.
“As you know, in television terms ‘listening to voices’ means inclusion in the writers’ room. I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the room, not in a token way, but genuinely informing whatever new direction the character takes, including how it is voiced or not voiced.”
In addition to that, Azaria offered to “step aside or help transition [the character] into something new” if The Simpsons team want him to. “It not only makes sense”, he explained, “but it just seems like the right thing to do to me.”
We’ll keep you updated as we hear more.