Hank Azaria told Stephen Colbert on The Late Show Tuesday that he would be willing to “step aside” from voicing one of his characters following recent criticism.
Azaria voices Indian shopkeeper Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, who has been a character on the Fox television series since 1990. Controversy has brewed around the role since the release of a documentary last year called The Problem with Apu. Between the mannerisms and exaggerated accent, the documentary’s writer Hari Kondabolu said the character embodies racial stereotypes.
The Simpsons showrunners were largely silent about the criticism until one of the main characters appeared to make a passive reference to it in an episode that aired earlier this month, Variety reports. In the episode, ‘No Good Read Goes Unpunished,’ Lisa said, “something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect.”
The remark drew more criticism, with many saying The Simpsons insufficiently addressed the problem.
Azaria apologized on The Late Show to anyone who was “hurt and offended.”
“I had nothing to do with the writing or the voicing [in that episode]. I think if anyone came away from that segment thinking they need to lighten up … that’s definitely not the message that I want to send,” Azaria told Colbert, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Azaria added, “I think the most important thing is to listen to South Asian people, Indian people in this country when they talk about what they feel and how they think about the character, and what their American experience of it has been.”
“I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the writers room … including how [Apu] is voiced or not voiced. I’m perfectly willing to step aside. It just feels like the right thing to do to me,” he said.