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Hank Azaria wants to make amends for his portrayal of The Simpsons character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.
The racially stereotypical way in which the Indian character was portrayed on the show came under fire in recent years, particularly in Hari Kondabolu’s 2017 documentary The Problem with Apu.
As part of his own awakening, the 56-year-old Azaria recounted an incident when he spoke at his son’s school, and talked with Indian students to get their input on the character. One who never saw the show was familiar with Apu.
“It’s practically a slur at this point,” Azaria told Shepard. “All he knows is that is how his people are thought of and represented to many people in this country.”
Despite abandoning the role, Azaria added that he still feels its important to apologize for his role in bringing the character to life.
“I apologize for my part in creating that and participating in that,” he said. “Part of me feels like I need to go to every single Indian person in this country and personally apologize. And sometimes I do.”
Azaria now pushes for actors of color to be cast as characters of color on the show, with actor Alex Désert taking over Azaria’s former role of Black character Carl Carlson last year.
“I love the character, and it makes me feel bad that it makes other people feel bad,” The Simpsons creator Matt Groening said in 2018. “But on the other hand, it’s tainted now—the conversation, there’s no nuance to the conversation now.”
Since Azaria’s latest remarks, the Hindu American Foundation has expressed interest in meeting with him. TMZ writes that Shereen Bhalla, a rep for the foundation, “tells us coming to the table with them would help Hank do a lot of the learning he seems very open to at this point.” HAF has offered several options, including “a third-party facilitated dialogue with Indians across the nation, on or off the record...his choice.” They’ve also said he’s welcome on their That’s So Hindu podcast.
You can listen to Azaria’s appearance on Armchair Expert here.