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Hank Azaria says he’s “willing to step aside” from voicing Apu on ‘The Simpsons’

Hank Azaria on 'Colbert'
Hank Azaria on ‘Colbert’

Hank Azaria was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Tuesday (4/25), partially to talk about his IFC series Brockmire which returns for a second season this week, but also to address the controversy around “Apu,” the Simpsons character he has voiced for nearly 30 years. Hari Kondabolu’s documentary, The Problem with Apu, shone a light on South Asian stereotypes movies and TV, especially noting that the most famous Indian character in popular culture was voiced by a white man. Azaria declined to be interviewed for the documentary, and then The Simpsons‘ response was seen by a lot of people as flippant.

Azaria directely responded to the controversy on Colbert. “The idea that this character [Apu] was used to marginalize people, it’s upsetting.” He also said he had nothing to do with The Simpsons‘ animated response saying, “that’s certainly not the way I feel about it. and it’s definitely not the message I want to send.” When Colbert asked Azaria what he thinks should be done, he replied:

My eyes have been opened. “I think the most important thing is to listen to South Asian people, Indian people in this country and what they talk about and what they feel about this character and what their American experience with it has been. As you know, listening to voices means inclusion in the writers’ room. I really want to see Indian, south Asian writers in the writers’ room, genuinely informing whichever direction this character takes, including how it is voiced or not voiced. …I’m perfectly willing to step aside or help transition it into something new. I really hope that’s what the Simpsons does. It not only makes sense, it just feels like the right thing to do to me.

You can watch the full Colbert interview below.

Hari Kondabolu responded to Azaria on twitter, thanking him:

Speaking of Hari Kondabolu, he’s got a new Netflix special titled Warm Your Relatives which will be out May 8 where he “breaks down identity politics, celebrity encounters, his mango obsession and more in an unpredictable stand-up comedy special.” He’s also got a Kondabolu Brothers podcast taping at Brooklyn’s Littlefield on May 13 (tickets).

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