Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, once of the most prominent non-Simpsons on The Simpsons, has been a background character since 2017. Hank Azaria stopped voicing the dad of eight following the release of The Problem with Apu, a documentary starring and written by Hari Kondabolu about Hollywood’s portrayal of South Asians. A new voice actor has not been cast.
Azaria, who is white, doesn’t appear in The Problem with Apu, a decision he now regrets (although not as much as The Simpsons should regret their crummy response to the controversy).
“I was afraid,” he admitted to Kondabolu on NPR’s Code Switch podcast. “I was really freaked out. You’re a comedian. And some of your stuff is ‘gotcha.’ It has bite to it, as it should. It’s hilarious and it makes good points. But being on the other end of that really scared me. At the time, I didn’t feel safe to have the conversation privately, let alone recorded.”
Azaria is “grateful” for Kondabolu “dragging and pushing” him into the conversation, though The documentarian and comedian replied, “It means a lot to hear you say that. I know you’ve told me privately the impact that I’ve made, but to hear that publicly is a really big deal to me because one of the things that frustrated me after the film came out is that I was getting death threats.”
“Initially it bothered me that you didn’t mention me because I had to deal with all this crap to get it there…There is a history of white folks talking about what they’ve learned and sharing the knowledge without giving credit to the people of color that actually got them there. Like, you put in the work and then you get never get credit for the work. And at the end of the day, I’m talking about this way more than I wanted to.
And I know it’s a different experience for both of us, because for you it’s opened up all these new ideas and you’ve grown in incredible ways and I can see your excitement about the work you’re doing now. To me, this was old hat when I made the documentary. So it’s the double whammy of being stuck here without also getting props. So for you to say it now does mean a lot.”
You can listen to the podcast below.