Hank has been with ‘The Simpsons’ in 1989, voicing a host of beloved minor characters including Moe Szyslak, Carl Carlson, Professor Frink and Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu.
However, his portrayal of the South Asian character has come under fire in recent times, with many suggesting he plays up to offensive stereotypes, and should not be voiced by a white actor.
The show itself responded to the backlash with a defiant message suggesting those opposed to Hank’s depiction of Apu were being oversensitive, which the voice actor himself has been quick to point out he had nothing to do with.
Speaking to Stephen Colbert, Hank explained: “I had nothing to do with the writing or the voicing [in that episode]. I think if anyone came away from that segment thinking they need to lighten up…that’s definitely not the message that I want to send.
“I’ve given this a lot of thought, and as I say my eyes have been opened. I think the most important thing is to listen to Indian people and their experience with it.”
On the future of the character, Hank continued: “I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the writers room…including how he is voiced or not voiced.
“I’m perfectly willing to step aside. It just feels like the right thing to do to me.”
The show addressed the controversy in the recent episode ‘No Good Read Goes Unpunished’, in which Marge discovers a popular children’s book is full of antiquated stereotypes.
Following this, Lisa is heard saying to her mother: “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”
A photo of Apu with the popular ‘Simpsons’ catchphrase “don’t have a cow” was then revealed in the background.
The controversy over Apu was largely brought to the forefront in the 2017 documentary, ‘The Problem With Apu’, put together by comedian Hari Kondabolu, who says he grew up watching ‘The Simpsons’, but was always troubled by the convenience store owner.
Watch Hank Azaria’s interview in full above.