Since the inception of “The Simpsons,” the character of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, an Indian American convenience store clerk with an exaggerated, fake Indian accent, has been voiced by a white actor, Hank Azaria. More than three decades later, Fox has now taken a decision to no longer cast white actors for the voices of characters from other ethnic backgrounds.
“Moving forward, ‘The Simpsons’ will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters,” CNN quoted Fox spokesman Les Eisner as saying in a statement June 26.
It’s not clear as yet if the character of Apu will be written out of the show or if a new actor – hopefully Indian – will be brought in to voice the beloved character.
Azaria confirmed in January this year that he will no longer be voicing the controversial character that has been accused of pushing racial stereotypes.
“All we know there is I won’t be doing the voice anymore, unless there’s some way to transition it or something,” Azaria told Slashfilm in January. “What they’re going to do with the character is their call. It’s up to them and they haven’t sorted it out yet. All we’ve agreed on is I won’t do the voice anymore.”
Azaria added that the decision was a mutual one.
“We all made the decision together,” Azaria was quoted as saying by the publication. “We all agreed on it. We all feel like it’s the right thing and good about it.”
Azaria had been thinking of stepping aside for a while.
In May 2018, Azaria addressed the controversy during his appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” He said he was willing to stop voicing the character.
“I say my eyes have been opened. And I think the most important thing is we have to listen to South Asian people, Indian people in this country, when they talk about what they feel and how they think about this character, and what their American experience of it has been,” Azaria said.
Indian American comedian Hari Kondabolu helped spark a conversation about the character in the show through his 2017 documentary, “The Problem with Apu,” which featured several Indian American artists.
“It’s like a white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father,” said Kondabolu. (Read earlier India-West story here: https://bit.ly/2udWu8f.)
Kondabolu reacted to the announcement on Twitter, writing, “Re: The Simpsons using People of Color to voice minority characters. All it took was 30 years, a documentary, more relevant shows doing it first & a conversation about racism spurred by police brutality & murder. Going off social media now until next wave of death threats pass."