Actor Hank Azaria, the voice of The Simpsons’ Kwik-E-Mart store owner Apu, has responded to claims the character promotes racist stereotypes, hinting that producers may be looking to rewrite – or even kill off – the character.
“I think it’s an important conversation worth having. We’re still thinking about it,” he told TMZ.
Controversy over Apu’s role in the long-running series was stirred last month after US comedian Hari Kondabolu tackled the subject in his viral documentary, The Problem with Apu.
The documentary, which gleaned opinions on the character from Indian-American stars including Aziz Ansari and Hasan Minhaj, cited Apu as an example of TV’s “problematic” depiction of people of colour.
“It’s insulting, it’s inaccurate and it represents a larger problem where people don’t get to speak for themselves,” Kondabolu, who is of Indian descent, said about the character.
Kondabolu had repeatedly sought Azaria’s involvement in the documentary, but the actor – who has voiced Apu on the series since 1990, based on a 7-Eleven worker from his Los Angeles neighbourhood – had declined.
But, speaking with TMZ on Monday, Azaria said the show’s producers were still “digesting” the film’s claims, leading to speculation the character may be re-framed or written out in the wake of the criticisms.
“I think the documentary made some really interesting points and gave us a lot to think about, and we really are thinking about it,” Azaria said.
“Definitely anybody that was hurt or offended by it, or by any character or vocal performance, it’s really upsetting that it was offensive or hurtful to anybody… We’re still thinking about it.”
Kondabolu, who has argued that killing off the character would be a “lazy” fix, has faced backlash from Simpsons superfans who’ve accused him of being a “PC warrior” and “easily offended”.
“Apu doesn’t ‘offend’ me,” he pointedly responded on Twitter this week, “he insults me… and my community.”
The Simpsons, already the longest-running primetime TV show, was recently renewed through its 30th season, which will see it airing to 2019.
However, the show was pulled off free-to-air TV in Australia for the first time in 25 years in October, after Ten’s sale to CBS saw the network drop its traditional Fox content. To @TheSimpsons Writers: Please do NOT remove Apu from The Simpsons. Killing him is lazy writing & an insult to the show’s legacy. Let him be upwardly mobile & own multiple Qwik E Marts. Let his kids talk. Plots have been repeating for years & tweaks provide tons of new stories.??? Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) December 4, 2017This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.