Following years of controversy that peaked with the documentary The Problem with Apu, Hank Azaria has decided to bow out of his role as Apu. Azaria announced on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert that he was saddened by the controversy surrounding the character.
"The idea that anybody, 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. "It was certainly not my intention. I wanted to spread laughter and joy with this character and the idea that it's brought pain and suffering in any way, that it was used to marginalize people, it's upsetting."
He added, "I'm perfectly willing and happy to step aside or help transition it into something new. I really hope that's what The Simpsons does and it not only makes sense, but it just feels like the right thing to do to me."
Azaria has voiced the character of Apu (whose full name is Apu Nahasapeemapetilon) since the show's inception in 1989. In 2017, the comedian Hari Kondabolu debuted a documentary called The Problem with Apu which outlined the problematic nature of the character. The Simpsons seemingly addressed Kondabolu's documentary this month when Lisa Simpson said during an episode, "Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?" She then turned and looked at a photograph of Apu.
Kondabolu has already responded to Azaria on Twitter, thanking him for his words of support.