The debate around the Indian-American The Simpsons character Apu, racial stereotypes and the spread of such misperceptions through American culture is not new, but Hari Kondabolu’s 2017 documentary The Problem With Apu has thrown far more visibility on the issue than seen previously. His critique of Apu as an example of negative representation that has had an effect on countless people of South Asian descent has called the viability and future of the character into question.
Now, Hank Azaria, who voices Apu, seems to be siding with Kondabolu and other critics of the character. On Tuesday night’s edition of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Azaria called for changes to be made to how the character is crafted and presented, including South Asian representation in the writer’s room, and expressed a willingness to relinquish the role of Apu to someone who could better speak to the character:
I really want to see South Asian writers in the writer’s room. Not in a token way, but genuinely informing whatever new direction this character may take, including how it is voiced or not voiced. I’m perfectly willing and happy to step aside or help transition it into something new. I really hope that’s what The Simpsons does. It not only makes sense, but it just feels like the right thing to do, to me.
Azaria also gave his thoughts on the ill-received response from The Simpsons to the backlash surrounding Apu, which featured references to changes in political correctness over time and questioned if such things as the caricature of Apu would ever be dealt with. “I didn’t know it was going to be in it until I saw it … that’s certainly not the way I feel about it, and it’s definitely not the message that I want to send,” said Azaria, differing from Simpsons showrunner Al Jean, who vehemently defended the show’s response amidst the backlash it inspired.
Azaria’s comments and openness to stepping aside as the voice of Apu were met with praise from Kondabolu on Twitter.
Check out Azaria’s entire appearance on Colbert below.