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Hank Azaria wants to apologize for this portrayal of an Indian character on “The Simpsons.”
For about three decades, Azaria was the voice of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, an Indian immigrant who runs a convenience store on the Fox long-running animated comedy.
Last year he announced he would no longer portray the character amid criticism that Apu’s voice reinforced racial stereotypes.
This week, speaking with actor and podcast host Dax Shepard in the latest episode of “Armchair Expert,” Azaria opened up about his journey to understanding why the character is problematic and why his portrayal was seen as offensive.
“I needed to look at my part. I went and learned,” he told Shepard and co-host Monica Padman.
“I read, and I talked to people. I talked to a lot of Indian people. I talked to a lot of people who knew a lot about racism. I took seminars.”
Saying that he was unaware about how much “relative advantage” he’d received as a white kid from Queens,” Azaria said that he didn’t think about “this stuff because I never had to.”
“There were very good intentions on all of our parts. We tried to do a funny, thoughtful character. Just because there were good intentions doesn’t mean there weren’t real negative consequences to the thing that I am accountable for,” he said.
Azaria then apologized to Padman, who’s Indian-American.
“I really do apologize. It’s important,” he said. “I apologize for my part in creating that and participating in that. Part of me feels like I need to go to every single Indian person in this country and personally apologize. And sometimes I do.”
Azaria has won four Emmy awards for outstanding voice-over performance for his work on the show — which includes a number of different characters, such as Moe’s Tavern owner Moe Szyslak, chief of police Clancy Wiggum and Apu, who runs Kwik-E-Mart and speaks with an exaggerated and stereotypical accent.
In 2017 the documentary “The Problem with Apu,” written by the Indian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu, slammed the character for being a south Asian stereotype.
After initially dismissing the criticism, Azaria, who’s white, announced in 2020 that he would no longer be the voice of Apu.