Hank Azaria says he will no longer voice the controversial Simpsons character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.
Azaria, a white American actor who also voices Moe Szyslak, Chief Wiggum and Comic Book Guy, was quoted by entertainment website SlashFilm this week as confirming he would no longer voice the Indian-born convenience store owner.
“All we know there is I won’t be doing the voice anymore, unless there’s someway to transition it or something,” Azaria was quoted as saying at an event in California.
“We all made the decision together … all feel like it’s the right thing and good about it.”
Azaria was unable to clarify whether or not the character of Apu would remain on long-running animated series or not.
“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.”
The Simpsons has not officially confirmed Azaria will be stepping down as the voice of Apu.
A problem with Apu
Controversy surrounding the Indian Kwik-E-Mart owner with a thick accent came to prominence after the release of comedian Hari Kondabolu’s 2017 documentary The Problem With Apu.
The film explored the character through the prism of Mr Kondabolu’s own life and his love for the show, while interviewing other prominent American actors of South Asian descent like Aziz Ansari.
“Everything with Apu is like this running joke … and the running joke is that he is Indian,” Mr Kondabolu said.
In 2018, Al Jean, a senior producer who has worked on The Simpsons since its beginning, dismissed claims that Apu’s character would be discontinued.
However that same year Azaria told US late night talk show host Stephen Colbert that he would be willing to give up the iconic role.
“The idea that anybody, young or old, past or present, was bullied or teased based on the character of Apu — it just really makes me sad,” Azaria said.
“It was certainly not my intention … the idea that it’s brought pain and suffering in any way, that it was used to marginalise people, it’s upsetting, genuinely.”
The Simpsons addressed the controversy in the 2018 episode No Good Read Goes Unpunished in which Marge tries to share books from her youth with her daughter Lisa only to realise they now seem politically incorrect.
Many found the show’s response inadequate with Mr Kondabolu tweeting: “The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress”.
The scene in The Simpsonsa addressing Apu