- The Washington Times
Saturday, January 18, 2020

Hank Azaria, a voice actor on “The Simpsons” since the cartoon’s first season, announced Friday he has retired from performing the character of shopkeeper Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.

“All we know there is I won’t be doing the voice anymore, unless there’s someway to transition it or something,” Mr. Azaria, 55, said in an interview with the website Slash Film.

“What they’re going to do with the character is their call,” Mr. Azariaadded. “It’s up to them and they haven’t sorted it out yet. All we’ve agreed on is I won’t do the voice anymore.”

Mr. Azaria, who is white, has voiced the heavily-accented Indian-American convenience store clerk since the character debuted on the first season of “The Simpsons” on Fox in 1990.

Nearly 30 years later, the character came under scrutiny following the release of a 2017 documentary, “The Problem with Apu,” that examined its perpetuation of racist stereotypes.

Discussing the character during a television interview the following year, Mr. Azaria expressed remorse for any hurt he has caused and said he was willing to stop voicing the role.

“The idea that anybody, young or old, past or present, was bullied or teased based on the character of Apu, it just really makes me sad. It was certainly not my intention. I wanted to spread laughter and joy with this character, and the idea that it’s brought pain and suffering in any way, that it was used to marginalize people, it’s upsetting. Genuinely,” Mr. Azaraia said during a 2018 appearance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” on CBS.

“I am perfectly willing and happy to step aside or help transition it into something new,” Mr. Azaria said at the time. “I really hope that’s what ‘The Simpsons’ does. It not only makes sense, but it just feels like the right thing to do to me.”

Speaking to Slash Film on Friday, Mr. Azaria suggested his ‘Simpsons’ colleagues subsequently decided he should finally walk away from the role of Apu after more than 30 seasons.

“We all made the decision together,” Mr. Azaria told the website. “We all agreed on it. We all feel like it’s the right thing and good about it.”

A spokesperson for “The Simpsons” declined to comment Saturday.

Launched by Fox in late 1989, “The Simpsons” is currently in its 31st season on the network, making it the nation’s longest-running sitcom with over 670 episodes under its belt.

Mr. Azaria voices a number of other reoccurring characters on the “The Simpsons,” including notably Moe Szyslak and Chief Wiggum, among others.

He received the Emmy Awards for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance in 1998, 2001 and 2003 for his work on “The Simpsons” voicing characters including Apu.

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