Hank Azaria wants to apologize to every Indian for voicing Apu on ‘The Simpson’s’

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Mike Stunson
·2 min read
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Hank Azaria said he wants to apologize for his decades-long stint voicing Apu on “The Simpsons.”

Azaria, a white actor, voiced the Indian convenience store clerk on the animated show for nearly 30 years. In 2017, a documentary titled “The Problem with Apu” addressed the depiction of the character, leading to Azaria walking away from the role.

Speaking on the podcast Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard, Azaria admitted he had “a date with destiny” for his voicing of Apu throughout the duration of the series.

“I really didn’t know any better. I didn’t think about it,” Azaria said. “I don’t love the term white privilege. It applies, but I prefer the team relative advantage. I was unaware of how much relative advantage I had received in this county. As a white kid from Queens, I never thought about this stuff because I didn’t have to.”

After the documentary aired, Azaria said he educated himself on the issue and talked with Indian people and others who have experienced racism in the United States.

Apu is “practically a slur at this point,” Azaria said. The 56-year-old said he talked to Indian students at his son’s high school to get their opinion on the character, and a 17-year-old told him the representation has consequences on people’s lives.

Some Asian-American actors who appeared in the documentary said they have been called Apu or the name has been said in reference to them. Some say there is not fair representation for Indian characters on “The Simpsons.”

Hari Kondabolu, who created the documentary, describes the voice of Apu as “a white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father.”

Azaria confirmed in February 2020 to The New York Times that he would no longer voice the character.

“I really do apologize. I know people weren’t asking for that, but it’s important,” Azaria said on the podcast. “I apologize for my part in creating that and participating in that. Part of me feels like I need to go out to every single Indian person and personally apologize, and sometimes I do.”

Kondabolu said he has nothing but respect for the longtime actor.

“@HankAzaria is a kind & thoughtful person that proves people are not simply ‘products of their time,’ but have the ability to learn & grow.”

Azaria hopes to see better representation in Hollywood, which he said would make shows more authentic.

Producers of “The Simpsons” said last summer they will no longer use white actors to voice non-white characters, according to The Hollywood Reporter.