The actor who portrays Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the thickly accented convenience store owner on “The Simpsons,” said Tuesday that he would be “perfectly willing and happy to step aside” as the voice of the character.
For nearly 30 years, Hank Azaria has been the voice behind the stingy Indian-American owner of the high-priced Kwik-E-Mart in Springfield, the show’s fictional town. Mr. Azaria, who is white, gave Apu a pronounced Indian accent, which, along with the character itself, has come under intense criticism in recent months as a racist stereotype.
In December, Mr. Azaria said that he found the situation “upsetting” and that there were “a lot of things to think about.” But on Tuesday, in an interview with Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show,” he offered his fullest response yet to the criticism, which started with the debut last fall of the documentary “The Problem With Apu.”
The documentary’s producer, Hari Kondabolu, a comedian of South Asian descent, said in the film that Mr. Azaria’s rendition of Apu was more like “a white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father.”
Mr. Azaria said he had watched the documentary and listened to others.
“I’ve given this a lot of thought, really a lot of thought,” Mr. Azaria said in the interview. “I’m perfectly willing and happy to step aside, or help transition it into something new.”
For years, Apu was the most prominent character of South Asian descent and representation of Indian-Americans on television. Apu’s significance and influence, the documentary said, contributed to years of negative racial stereotypes that have been used to mock or bully Asian-American children.
Mr. Azaria, who has won three Emmys for his portrayal of Apu, said that he was surprised by the criticism at first but that he now understands it after listening to more people.
“The idea that anyone, young or old, past or present, was bullied or teased based on the character of Apu, it just really makes me sad,” he said. “It was certainly not my intention. I wanted to spread laughter and joy.”
After his interview aired on Tuesday, Mr. Kondabolu tweeted: “Thank you, @HankAzaria. I appreciate what you said & how you said it.”
(Excerpt) Read More in: The New York Times