The Simpsons showrunner, Al Jean, has admitted that while the controversial figure of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is still being kept on the show, the character is still a "work in progress."
Apu drew scrutiny with many recently voicing concerns about him being a racial stereotype. Producer Adi Shankar came out and said the show was dropping Apu as a result, only for Jean to refute this last October. Now, Jean is maintaining his stance that the show is adapting as it moves forward using the character to avoid such issues appearing again.
"I apologize for anyone who was bullied because of Apu. I hate bullies," Jean told The Daily Beast. "I was bullied, and if you're a bully I'll kick your ass, so certainly that was wrong. But as a writer, I always wanted to make Apu an original character -- more noble, more hardworking, and more intelligent than the average Simpsons character." Jean made it clear the creative team listened to concerns and also pointed out Apu did come off inspirational to others in the past, and not just as a joke.
"When we were doing Episode 4, there was a big joke that Reverend Lovejoy didn't even know what religion he was, and Apu was just being this wonderful volunteer fireman, and there was an article in the Guardian recently by a South Asian writer who said that moment made him feel really proud," Jean continued. "So I think there are a lot of things about Apu that have made South Asians very proud, and it's a very complicated issue. But no one should be bullied because of him, and I'm very sorry about that."
As for what changes were being implemented, Jean wouldn't say much as Season 30 only kicked off last month. "It's a work in progress. That's all I can say," he concluded.
The Simpsons airs every Sunday on Fox at 8 p.m. EST.