Actor Hank Azaria said he would “step aside” and stop voicing Apu on “The Simpsons” if the character continues to offend Indian Americans.
“The idea that anybody was– young or old, past or present– was bullied or teased based on the character of Apu, it just really makes me sad,” Azaria told Stephen Colbert Tuesday on “The Late Show.”
“It was certainly not my intention,” he continued. “I wanted to spread laughter and joy with this character, and the idea that it’s brought pain and suffering in any way, that’s it was used to marginalize people, it’s upsetting, genuinely.”
In a recent episode of “The Simpsons” the writing team attempted to make light of the controversy by assuring audiences it would be dealt with at a later date.
“I had nothing to do with the writing,” Azaria said. “Apu doesn’t speak in that segment.”
“I think that if anybody came away from that segment feeling that they should lighten up or take a joke better or grow a thicker skin — Yeah, it’s certainly not the way I feel about it. And that’s definitely not the message that I want to send,” he added.
Azaria said he has given the character “a lot of thought” and claims his “eyes have been opened” regarding what should happen next.
“The most important thing is we have to listen to South Asian people, Indian people in this country when they talk about what they feel and how they think about– about this character, and what their American experience of it has been,” Azaria said.
He also recommended hiring Indian writers to help shape the character going forward.
“Listening to voices means inclusion in the writers’ room. I really want to see Indian, South Asian writer, writers in the room, not in a token way, but genuinely informing whatever new direction this character may take, including how it is voiced or not voiced,” he said.
“I’m perfectly willing and happy to step aside or help transition it into something new,” he concluded. “I really hope that’s what the “The Simpsons” does. And it not only makes sense, but it just feels like the right thing to do to me.”