‘Simpsons’ actor Hank Azaria says ‘it didn’t feel right’ to keep voicing Apu

The cast member, who recently gave up the role, says he had ‘a blind spot’ about the Indian character’s potential to offend.

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This image released by Fox shows the character Apu, an Indian shop owner featured on “The Simpsons,” animated series.

Indian immigrant Apu has been voiced by Hank Azaria over the last three decades.

AP

Hank Azariais opening up about his decision to retire voicing Apu on “The Simpsons.”

The Emmy-winning voice actor, 55,announced last month that he would stop voicing thebeloved yet divisive character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon,which has been criticized asa racist caricature that promotes negative stereotypes about Indians.

”Once I realized that that was the way this character was thought of, I just didn’t want to participate in it anymore,” Azaria told The New York Times. “It just didn’t feel right.”

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Hank Azaria speaks at a press event on Jan. 16, 2020.

Amy Sussman/Getty Images

The veteran cast member has voiced various characters inthe fictional town ofSpringfield over the last three decades, including Moe Szyslak and Chief Wiggum, but Azaria has becomesynonymous with Apu, an Indian immigrantwho ownstheKwik-E-Mart convenience storeand is best known for his catchphrase, “Thank you, come again.”

Azaria told the Times that he based thecharacter off the 1968 film “The Party”– in which Peter Sellers wore brownface to portray an Indian man — in addition toPakistani andIndian clerks he heard growing up in New York.

”That represents a real blind spot I had,” Azaria said, explaining that he was unaware of the racial insensitivity of Sellers’ performance at the time.”There I am, joyfully basing a character on what was already considered quite upsetting.”

Although Azaria has stepped down from voicing Apu,the character’s futurelies solely in the hands of”The Simpsons” executive producers,who have full creative control.

“We respect Hank’s journey in regard to Apu. We have granted his wish to no longer voice the character,”the show’s executive producers said in a statement. “Apu is beloved worldwide. We love him, too. Stay tuned.”

It’s not clear ifthe character will be written out or recast with an Indian actor.

Azaria, who has wonfour Emmysfor his voice-over work on “The Simpsons,” said some good has come from the controversialcharacter: It hassparked a much-needed dialogue about representation in television.

”What happened with this character is a window into an important issue,” hesaid. “It’s a good way to start the conversation. I can be accountable and try to make up for it as best I can.”

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