Hank Azaria, the Simpsons voice actor best known for his role as the Indian grocery store manager, Apu, says he wants to apologize to every Indian for voicing the character.
Describing Apu as “practically a slur,” Azaria’s apology for taking on the role comes amid a backlash against white actors portraying non-white characters in cartoons and video games. The backlash against the Apu character was launched when Indian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu launched a campaign decrying the existence of Apu as an affront to his culture and ethnicity.
While many Indian-Americans as well as Indians worldwide enjoyed seeing a representation of themselves in the very popular cartoon, the wokeistas decided it was time for Apu to retire.
In an interview on the podcast Armchair Expert hosted by actor Dax Shepard, Azaria explained why he stepped away from the role after attending several seminars and learning from other people about how the character personally hurt them.
“I was speaking at my son’s school, I was talking to the Indian kids there because I wanted to get their input,” said Azaria, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “A 17-year-old … he’s never even seen The Simpsons but knows what Apu means. It’s practically a slur at this point. All he knows is that is how his people are thought of and represented to many people in this country.”
Azaria said he apologized to the boy and promised to tell his colleagues in Hollywood that how they portray people belonging to a certain race matters in the real world.
“I really do apologize,” Azaria said. “It’s important. 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.”
It’s worth noting that Apu was never presented in a bad light in The Simpsons, where his complexity as a character was celebrated throughout the show’s three-decade run. Contrary to the perception that he cast Indians in a negative light, Apu held a Ph.D. in computer science and graduated at the top of his class before deciding to manage a grocery store because he enjoyed the work.