Hank Azaria is a long-running voice actor on The Simpsons, portraying various characters including Moe Szyslak, Chief Wiggum and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. Azaria appeared as a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Tuesday, admitting that he would happily “step aside” from the latter role.


Apu, the Indian-American owner of Springfield’s Kwik-E-Mart, debuted in the animated show’s first season, though he has become a subject of controversy. Comedian Hari Kondabolu‘s The Problem with Apu documentary discusses the issue in detail, contesting that Apu reinforces negative stereotypes of South Asian people. The Simpsons reacted to the controversy in an episode earlier this month in an insensitive manner, incurring a negative reaction on social media.


In his interview with Stephen Colbert, Azaria expresses how distraught he is. “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 to the Late Show host. “It was certainly not my intention. I wanted to spread laughter and joy with this character and the idea that it’s brought pain and suffering in any way, that it was used to marginalize people, it’s upsetting.”

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Moreover, Azaria had nothing to do with the show’s response to the controversy nor does he believe it was an appropriate one. Azaria instead asserts that “the most important thing is 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.” He hopes The Simpsons will infuse more diversity into its writing staff, adding, “I really want to see Indian, South Asian writer, writers in the 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 would be happy to help facilitate that, even if it means abandoning his character.

The entire interview with Azaria can be seen below:

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