Simpsons' Apu Actor Had His Own Reckoning

Hank Azaria apologizes for participating in 'structural racism'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2021 11:48 AM CDT
Hank Azaria: Apu Was Part of 'Structural Racism'
This image released by Fox shows the character Apu, an Indian shop owner featured on "The Simpsons."   (Fox via AP)

More than a year after Hank Azaria, a white actor, announced he would stop voicing the Indian-American character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon on The Simpsons, he's apologizing in full. "I apologize for my part in creating that and participating in that. 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," the actor said during Monday's episode of Dax Shepard's podcast. He also apologized to cohost Monica Padman, who is Indian-American and addressed the controversy at length, per the BBC and Hollywood Reporter. Azaria said he didn't rush to a decision after a documentary sparked a debate about Apu and negative stereotypes but spent a year learning about racism, attending seminars, and speaking to "lots of Indian people."

"I realized I have had a date with destiny with this thing for 31 years," Azaria said. "Just because there were good intentions, it doesn't mean there weren't real negative consequences to the thing that I am accountable for." He said he came to see the role as part of "structural racism." But previously, "I was unaware how much relative advantage I had received in this country as a white kid from Queens." He said some critics suggested this meant he would also have to leave the role of Police Chief Clancy Wiggum because he's not an actual police officer. But the comparison is "ridiculous," Azaria said. "If it's an Indian character, Latin character or Black character, please let's have that person voice the character." And "they might also bring their experience of their culture to it." (The show's Black doctor has been recast.)

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