Series creator Matt Groening told USA Today in an interview published Monday, in celebration of the show’s 700th episode, that his team has “something kind of ambitious” in the works for the character following Hank Azaria stepping down as the voice of Apu.
“The Simpsons” and Apu, an Indian immigrant character in the show who runs a Kwik-E-Mart business, had courted controversy for several years due to Apu’s characterization, which has been criticized as a racial stereotype. Much of the controversy stemmed from comedian Hari Kondabolu’s 2017 “The Problem With Apu” documentary, which outlined the various negative stereotypes and treatment of Apu. The issue eventually led to Azaria, who is white, no longer voicing the character.
Groening did not offer specific details about Apu’s future but noted that “we have to see if we can make the stories work.” Groening has stated that Apu will continue to appear in “The Simpsons” despite Azaria stepping down, but a replacement voice actor has yet to be announced.
“I think the Apu stories are fantastic, and he’s one of the most nuanced characters on a silly two-dimensional cartoon show,” Groening said in the interview. “So, yeah, I’m proud of Apu.”
The series creator stated that though he was not part of the decision to bar white actors from portraying non-white characters on the show, he supported efforts to make the show more inclusive and had no issue with the decision.
“It was not my idea, but I’m fine with it. Who can be against diversity? So it’s great. However, I will just say that the actors were not hired to play specific characters,” Groening said in the interview. “They were hired to do whatever characters we thought of. To me, the amazing thing is seeing all our brilliant actors who can do multiple voices, do multiple voices. That’s part of the fun of animation, However, to be more inclusive and hire more people, I’m completely in favor of that.”