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Movies & TV

26th Feb 2020

Hank Azaria explains why he won’t voice Apu on The Simpsons anymore

Alan Loughnane

Hank Azaria Apu

Hank Azaria has spoken out about his decision to retire from voicing Apu in The Simpsons.

Azaria announced last month that he wouldn’t be voicing the character anymore following criticisms Apu is a racist caricature which promotes negative stereotypes around Indians.

“Once I realised 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 in an interview published this week.

“It just didn’t feel right,” he said.

Azaria told the publication that he based Apu off the 1968 film The Party, a movie where brownface is used to portray an Indian actor, in addition to clerks he heard growing up in New York.

Azaria said he had agonised over the decision to cease voicing Apu for many years. When he realised that the character was problematic rather than funny after watching the 2017 documentary, The Problem With Apu by comedian Hari Kondabolu, he became even more conflicted.

In a statement to The New York Times, The Simpsons creators said: “We respect Hank’s journey in regard to Apu. We have granted his wish to no longer voice the character.”

“Apu is beloved worldwide,” the show said when asked was this the end for the character. “We love him too. Stay tuned.”

In the fallout from the documentary, it first appeared that the character of Apu would be written out of The Simpsons entirely. Azaria previously said that he would “step aside” from the role if required.

Last month, while speaking as part of a panel for the final season of his show Brockmire, Azaria responded to a Slashfilm question on the subject.

“All we know there is I won’t be doing the voice any more, unless there’s someway to transition it or something,” he said.

“What they’re going to do with the character is their call. It’s up to them and they haven’t sorted it out yet. All we’ve agreed on is I won’t do the voice any more.”

Azaria said this wasn’t a decision he or the creators made independently, but rather one that was made together.

“We all made the decision together. We all agreed on it. We all feel like it’s the right thing and good about it,” he said.

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