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Hank Azaria is opening up about his decision to stop voicing one of his classic characters on The Simpsons: Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.
The long-running Indian character on the iconic Fox cartoon came under fire in recent years, with more vocal opponents calling out the Kwik-E-Mart manager’s racially stereotypical behavior.
In an interview with The New York Times published Tuesday, Azaria said the uproar over the character really got to him.
“Once I realized that that was the way this character was thought of, I just didn’t want to participate in it anymore,” Azaria told the Times. “It just didn’t feel right.”
Added Azaria, “What happened with this character is a window into an important issue. It’s a good way to start the conversation. I can be accountable and try to make up for it as best I can.”
The show came under fire in 2018 for the way in which it responded to the controversy.
The outcry over the character was addressed in the episode “No Good Read Goes Unpunished,” when Marge Simpson reads a book to daughter Lisa that has been changed from its original version to something not so controversial. “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?,” says Lisa. The show then panned to a picture of Apu.
It is unclear if Apu will continue to be a part of the cartoon, voiced by another actor or retired.
In a statement to the Times, Simpsons executive producers said: “We respect Hank’s journey in regard to Apu. We have granted his wish to no longer voice the character.”
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