American actor, Hank Azaria has apologised for his part in “structural racism” by voicing an Indian character on The Simpsons.
Azaria, who is white, had performed the voice of Indian shopkeeper Apu Nahasapeemapetilon in the long-running animated show since 1990 but stepped back last year as part of a change in casting culture in animation.
The 56-year-old appeared on Monday’s episode of the podcast “Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard” and spoke about the controversy after his character was accused of perpetuating harmful stereotypes about South Asian people.
Speaking to the Armchair Expert podcast, hosted by actors Dax Sheppard and Monica Padman, Azaria said: “I was speaking at my son’s school, I was talking to the Indian kids there because I wanted to get their input.
“A 17-year-old … he’s never even seen The Simpsons but knows what Apu means. It’s practically a slur at this point. All he knows is that is how his people are thought of and represented to many people in this country.”
“I really do apologize,” Azaria continued. “It’s important. I apologize for my part in creating that and participating in that. Part of me feels like I need to go to every single Indian person in this country and personally apologise. And sometimes I do.”
In 2016, the Apu Nahasapeemapetilon character was quietly phased out, recurring only as an occasional background character.
Last year, it was announced that white actors would no longer voice non-white characters in the comedy.
Addressing the decision, Simpsons creator Matt Groening said in March: “It was not my idea, but I’m fine with it. Who can be against diversity? So it’s great.
“However, I will just say that the actors were not hired to play specific characters,” he said. “They were hired to do whatever characters we thought of. To me, the amazing thing is seeing all our brilliant actors who can do multiple voices, do multiple voices.”