Hank Azaria will retire from voicing the character of Apu on The Simpsons, according to an interview out of the 2020 TCAs.
Like most of the core Simpson’s cast, Azaria voices multiple roles in the long-running animated sitcom, including Superintendent Chalmers, Moe, Comic Book Guy, and Chief Wiggum. But his role as Kwik-E-Mart proprietor and Indian immigrant, Apu, has caused the show considerable controversy over the past few years, reaching a peak in late 2017 with comedian Hari Kondabolu’s documentary The Problem with Apu.
The Problem with Apu featured discussion and interviews with South Asian comedians, celebrities, and academics on the stereotypes of South Asian peoples that were perpetuated by the Simpsons character. Kondabolu has said that he focused on Apu and The Simpsons as a widely recognizable “entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalized groups & why this is important.”
The Simpsons’ attempt to respond to the documentary, 2018’s episode “No Good Read Goes Unpunished” reignited the argument. Kondabolu’s detractors accused him of not being able to take a joke, while others considered the episode itself dismissive and out of character.
Shortly after, Azaria voiced his willingness to step aside from the character, either to allow an actor of West Indian descent to take the role, or so that Apu could be retired, as other Simpsons characters have (although usually out of respect for the death of their voice actor).
“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 what they think about this character and what their American experience of this character has been,” Azaria told Stephen Colbert in a The Late Show interview.
“All we know there is I won’t be doing the voice anymore, unless there’s someway to transition it or something,” Azaria said after panel for his IFC show Brockmire (via Slashfilm). “We all made the decision together,” he continued. “We all agreed on it. We all feel like it’s the right thing and good about it.”
Azaria added that no decision has been made on what to do with Apu’s character, except that he will no longer be voiced by Azaria.
Polygon has reached out to Fox Television for confirmation.
Update: Fox Television has offered no comment on Azaria’s remarks.