Published Jan 17, 2020Longtime voice actor on The Simpsons Hank Azaria is stepping down from his role playing Apu.
After years of debate about whether or not the character's problematic depiction perpetuates racist stereotypes, Azaria — who, to be clear, is a white man playing a South Asian person — spoke with /Film to announce he will no longer be voicing the character.
"All we know there is I won't be doing the voice anymore, unless there's someway to transition it or something," Azaria told /Film. "What they're going to do with the character is their call. It's up to them and they haven't sorted it out yet. All we've agreed on is I won't do the voice anymore."
He continued: "We all made the decision together. We all agreed on it. We all feel like it's the right thing and good about it."
In recent years, the character has come under scrutiny by the larger public, as well as comedian Hari Kondabolu, who called the depiction a racially inaccurate "immigrant caricature."
Kondabolu famously called out The Simpsons creators in his documentary The Problem with Apu that same year. In the documentary, Kondabolu interviews South Asian people to talk about the impact that stereotypical representations like Apu had on them in their lives. Spoiler: they weren't happy.
Azaria himself even vaguely apologized back in 2017, telling TMZ, "It's really upsetting that [Apu] was offensive or hurtful to anybody."
Despite the rumour mill circulating the notion that Apu would be erased from the series all together, last year, showrunner Matt Groening confirmed that the show has no plans to remove the character, nor should he be removed — a sentiment echoed by Kondabolu.
"Some people are offended by the character and I take that very seriously," Groening said at the 2019 D23 Expo. "Others really love the character. It's a difficult choice. I don't want to offend people but we also want to be funny. We don't want to be totally politically correct. That has never been us. It's given us a lot of thought."
"There are so many ways to make Apu work without getting rid of him," Konabolu later tweeted in response.
In 2018, Groening spoke with Exclaim! in an interview about his latest series Disenchantment. At the time, he refused to comment on the Apu debate.