Jewish American actor Hank Azaria feels he owes an apology to every Indian in the US for participating in “structural racism” through his long-time portrayal of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon on The Simpsons.
During a Monday episode of the Armchair Expert podcast chat with American actor Dax Shephard and Indian-American podcaster Monica Padman, Azaria said that he wished he had given up the Apu role many years ago.
Azaria opened up about his recent interaction with a 17-year-old Indian, who had never watched The Simpsons but understood what Apu stood for.
“I was speaking at my son’s school, I was talking to the Indian kids there because I wanted to get their input. A 17-year-old … he’s never even seen The Simpsons but knows what Apu means. It’s practically a slur at this point. All he knows is that is how his people are thought of and represented to many people in this country,” Azaria said.
Azaria first voiced Apu on the show in 1990 and last year in February announced that he would no longer be playing the role.
“I’ve had a date with destiny with this thing for about 31 years. Part of me feels like I need to go around to every single Indian person in this country and personally apologize, and sometimes I do when it comes up,” he said.
From the actor’s perspective, Apu was a character created with good intentions. “We tried to do a funny, thoughtful character,” he said. “But just because there were good intentions doesn’t mean there weren’t real negative consequences that I am accountable for.”
The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening. The series is a satirical depiction of American life, epitomized by the Simpson family. The first episode was aired in 1989, with 32 seasons of the sitcom created to date.