Hank Azaria, who has for many years voiced Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu Nahasapeemapetilon on The Simpsons, addressed the controversy surrounding the animated character on The Late Show. Last fall, comedian Hari Kondabolu released the documentary The Problem With Apu, which detailed the issues with the character (the accent, the stereotyping, and South Asian representation). Shortly after the movie’s debut, Azaria admitted, “I think the documentary made some really interesting points and gave us a lot to think about and we really are thinking about it.”
After having a few months to think about it, Azaria has some ideas on how he hopes the show will address the issue moving forward — and it isn’t in the unfortunate way The Simpsons chose to respond in an episode earlier in April. He told Stephen Colbert that he wants the long-running series to listen to more Indian and South Asian voices, particularly in the writers’ room. He explained:
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 what they feel and how they think about this character and what their American experience of it has been.
As you know, in television terms ‘listening to voices’ means inclusion in the writers’ room. I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the room, not in a token way, but genuinely informing whatever new direction the character takes, including how it is voiced or not voiced.
Azaria offered to “step aside or help transition [Apu] into something new.” He added, “It not only makes sense but it just seems like the right thing to do to me.”