Hank Azaria, who voices Apu Nahasapeemapetilon on The Simpsons, has responded to the controversy surrounding the character's perpetuation of negative stereotypes, saying that the show will address the issue.
"The idea that anybody, young or old, past or present, was bullied or teased or worse based on the character of Apu on 'The Simpsons,' the voice or any other tropes of the character is distressing," Azaria told Variety. "And especially in post 9/11 America, the idea that anybody was marginalized based on it or had a hard time was very upsetting to me personally and professionally."
"[The producers] are giving it a lot of thought," he continued. "We've discussed it a little bit, and they will definitely address, maybe publicly, but certainly creatively within the context of the show, what they want to do, if anything, differently with the character."
Azaria also noted that the show only attempts to "make people laugh and bring joy." Explaining that the fact that it has "caused any pain or suffering in any ways" is "disturbing."
"The Simpsons over the years," he said, "has been pretty humorously offensive to all manner of people Republicans, Brazilians, presidents, high school principals, school principals, Italians, you name it. And they take a lot of pride over there in not apologizing for any of that. I think, over the years, they've done a really good job of being, shall we say, uniformly offensive without being outright hurtful."
Azaria has voiced Apu since the character's debut in the 1990 episode "The Telltale Head." The character works at the Kwik-E-Mart, a job he took to pay off his student loans after completing a Ph.D. in computer science. Hari Kondabolu released The Problem With Apu in 2017. The film asserts that Apu perpetuates negative stereotypes about South Asian peoples that later formed the basis for microaggressions and slurs against them.
The next episode in the show's 29th season will debut in March.