The future of Apu on “The Simpsons” is still uncertain, but voice actor Hank Azaria says that the show is currently evaluating its options. Speaking to the Television Critics Association on Friday, Azaria addressed the controversial character and its place in the show as it proceeds.
“As far as what’s going to happen with the character going forward, it’s really not just up to me,” Azaria said. “I know that ‘The Simpsons’ guys are doing that too, they’re giving it a lot of thought and we’ve discussed a little bit. They will definitely address, maybe publicly, certainly creatively within the context of the show what they want to do, if anything, with the character.”
The character drew additional attention last fall with the release of Hari Kondabolu’s documentary “The Problem with Apu,” which made the case that Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the animated owner of the Springfield Kwik-E-Mart is an offensive South Asian stereotype.
Azaria reiterated the claim that many involved with the show that “The Simpsons” has never targeted their humor towards one particular race, ethnicity, or belief system.
“The Simpsons has been pretty humorously offensive to all manners of people,” Azaria said.
Still, he explained that he has given additional thought to the character in the months since the film’s release.
“The idea that anybody young or old, past or present, was bullied or teased or worse based on the character of Apu on ‘The Simpsons’ is distressing. Especially post-9/11 in America, the idea that anyone was marginalized based on it or had a hard time was very upsetting to me, personally and professionally,” Azaria said. “The intent was to make people laugh and bring joy.”
One of the central storylines in “The Problem with Apu” was Kondabolu endeavoring to talk to Azaria about his part in keeping the character alive.
“We didn’t show this in the film because it was a private conversation but Hank called me, we chatted,” Kondabolu said, in an interview with IndieWire at the time. “When we were trying to get him, he was very nice, he told us about how much he liked my work, and how he thinks the film is very interesting. And I was a little starstruck because it’s Hank Azaria and I love ‘The Simpsons.’ He seemed hesitant to be in the film because he was worried about the edit. So he said, ‘How about we record it on ‘Fresh Air’ or ‘WTF with Marc Maron’ and find that neutral territory?’ When the full version with context is out there, I can’t screw with context. I can’t edit it in a way where he looks terrible.”
Azaria ultimately declined to participate in the film.
Regardless of the future of his role on “The Simpsons,” Azaria will next be seen in Season 2 of the IFC comedy “Brockmire” returning this spring.