On Tuesday’s episode of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” Hank Azaria addressed the controversy over one of the “Simpsons” characters he voices, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.
Apu’s portrayal came under scrutiny after the documentary “The Problem with Apu” brought attention to the stereotypical depiction of Indian immigrants that the character presents.
“I think the most important thing is to listen to Indian people and their experience with it,” Azaria said. “I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the writers room … including how [Apu] is voiced or not voiced. I’m perfectly willing to step aside. It just feels like the right thing to do to me.”
Azaria said he understood the controversy surrounding his character. “It’s come to my attention more and more over the past couple years,” he said.
“The idea that anyone young or old, past or present, being bullied based on Apu really makes me sad,” he continued. “It certainly was not my intention. I wanted to bring joy and laughter to people.”
“The Simpsons” attempted to respond to the criticism with the episode “No Good Read Goes Unpunished,” in which Marge tries to alter a book from a previous era that she’s reading to Lisa to be less offensive. Lisa addresses the camera, saying, “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”
After some criticized the episode’s handling of the issue, showrunner Al Jean tweeted that he’d “continue to try and find an answer that is popular & more important right.”
Of the “Simpsons’” response, Azaria said, “I had nothing to do with the writing or the voicing [in that episode]. 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 indicated he was open to change regarding his role as Apu. “I’ve given this a lot of thought, and as I say my eyes have been opened.”
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