Hank Azaria on 'Simpsons' Apu controversy: 'My eyes have been opened'

By Wade Sheridan  |  April 25, 2018 at 8:07 AM
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April 25 (UPI) -- Simpsons voice actor Hank Azaria, appeared on The Late Show to discuss the controversy surrounding his Indian-American character Apu and offered his views on how to take Apu in a new direction.

"The idea that anyone young or old, past or present, being bullied based on Apu really makes me sad," Azaria said Tuesday to host Stephen Colbert about how Apu has been seen as a harmful stereotype of South Asian people. "It certainly was not my intention. I wanted to bring joy and laughter to people."

Azaria, also known for voicing bar owner Mo, police chief Wiggin and many others on The Simpsons, also said he disagreed with how the long-running animated comedy recently dealt with criticism of Apu in an episode where Lisa said, "Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?"

"I think if anyone came away from that segment thinking they need to lighten up...that's definitely not the message that I want to send," Azaria said after stating that he had nothing to do with the writing of the episode.

Azaria, when asked by Colbert what the future holds for Apu, said that he was willing to step aside from the role and pushed for more inclusion in the writers room.

"I've given this a lot of thought, and as I say my eyes have been opened," he said. "I think the most important thing is we have to listen to South Asian people, Indian people in this country, when they talk about what they feel and how they think about this character, and what their American experience of it has been... Listening to voices means inclusion in the writers' room. I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the writers' room, not in a token way, but genuinely informing whatever new direction this character may take, including how it is voiced or not voiced," he said.

"I'm perfectly willing and happy to step aside -- or help transition it into something new," he continued. "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."

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