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04/25/2018 04:29 am ET

Hank Azaria Is Happy To 'Step Aside' From Voicing Apu On 'The Simpsons'

"The idea that anyone young or old, past or present, being bullied based on Apu really makes me sad."

Hank Azaria’s eyes “have been opened” to the issues at play with his controversial voice portrayal of the character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon in “The Simpsons.”

In 2017, comedian Hari Kondabolu’s documentary “The Problem With Apu” shone a light on how Apu’s characterization propagated racial stereotypes about South Asians living in America. The film sparked conversations about the future of the character and the importance of representation in television. 

On Tuesday’s broadcast of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” Azaria said he was “perfectly willing and happy to step aside” from voicing the role of Springfield’s Indian Kwik-E-Mart owner.

Azaria told Colbert that “the idea that anyone young or old, past or present, being bullied based on Apu really makes me sad.”

“I’ve given this a lot of thought, really a lot of thought, and as I say my eyes have been opened,” said Azaria. “And I think the most important thing is we have to listen to South Asian people, Indian people in this country and they talk about what they feel and how they think about this character and what their American experience of it has been.”

Azaria, who voices numerous other characters on Fox’s animated comedy, including Moe SzyslakChief Wiggum and Comic Book Guy, said he was willing to help the character transition “into something new.”

“I really hope that’s what ‘The Simpsons’ does and not only does it make sense, it just feels like the right thing to do to me,” he added.

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