Hank Azaria is calling for more diversity in the writer’s room at the Simpsons after a documentary about his character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon opened his eyes. Last night on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Azaria said he is willing to step aside so that a voice actor of Indian or south Asian heritage can take over voicing the role as well. “It just feels like the right thing to do to me.”
Azaria hopes the creators of the Simpsons will listen to the voices complaining about the stereotypical portrayal of Apu. “I think the most important thing is to listen to Indian people and their experience with it,” he said, noting that there should be Indian and south Asian writers as part of the team on The Simpsons.
It was a truTV documentary created by comedian Hari Kondabolu that opened Azaria’s eyes. “The Problem with Apu” addressed how south Asian Americans- comedians in particular- were affected as kids by the Apu character and how they saw the character change how white Americans felt about them.
Azaria had initially refused to be a part of Kondabolu’s documentary. Although he admitted to being sympathetic to Kondabolu’s position, he was concerned about is statements being edited and taken out of context, but since the documentary’s release he has been increasingly in favor of changing the character. The Simpsons creators have been less sympathetic. The issue was addressed during an episode that aired April 8, with a scene that seemed to be complaining about political correctness. After the episode brought strong negative response, Simpsons creator tweeted that he appreciated the responses- both pro and con – and promised to look for a more satisfactory solution. Specifically, he promised to find a more popular response which would indicate that response had been more con than pro, but also says he wants to find the “right” solution.