Hank Azaria has had quite the career over the last 30-plus years. Though Azaria has had numerous live-action appearances on-screen, he’s best known for his voice work. (Did you know he voiced Eddie Brock/Venom in the 90s Spider-Man animated series?) And chief among those voice-acting roles are his 660+ episodes of The Simpsons, the long-running animated series on which he’s voiced Chief Wiggum, Comic Book Guy, Carl Carlson, Cletus Spuckler, Professor Frink, Dr. Nick Riviera, Lou, Snake Jailbird, Kirk Van Houten, the Sea Captain, Superintendent Chalmers, Disco Stu, Duffman, the Wiseguy and more one-off characters than we can count. But Azaria’s about to retire from one of his major Simpsons characters: Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.
The character, a hard-working Indian convenience store owner who interacts with just about everyone in Springfield from behind the counter, has long been a stereotype. And while that stereotype may have rubbed people with Indian and Pakistani heritage the wrong way for the last few decades, it wasn’t until Michael Melamedoff‘s 2017 documentary The Problem with Apu that the cultural insensitivity gained a voice. Now, it looks like Azaria, the voice of Apu himself, with stop voicing the character altogether.
From the ongoing TCA 2020, /Film reports that Azaria and The Simpsons team have agreed on the decision. Here’s what he had to say in a question posed following his Brockmire panel:
“All we know there is I won’t be doing the voice anymore, unless there’s someway to transition it or something.”
Not much to go on, but it’s a start. Azaria has been upfront about his willingness to step aside from the role for almost two years now. But as far as we know, no progress has been made as to finding either a replacement for Apu or figuring out another way to address the character. That decision is out of Azaria’s hands, however:
“What they’re going to do with the character is their call. It’s up to [Al Jean and Matt Groening] and they haven’t sorted it out yet. All we’ve agreed on is I won’t do the voice anymore. We all made the decision together. We all agreed on it. We all feel like it’s the right thing and good about it.”
One would imagine that the simple fix would be to find a Southeast-Asian actor to voice Apu, maybe one who’s a fellow writer as well to avoid any future culturally inappropriate missteps, as you do. There’s plenty of comedy out there to be mined without resorting to the stereotypes of yesteryear, and parody can be polished up by bringing authentic voices to characters both behind the scenes and on the screen. Stay tuned for more as we hear it because The Simpsons show no signs of stopping anytime soon.