Hank Azaria had voiced "Apu Nahasapeemapetilon" since the character first appeared in the show's first season in 1990. The fact that Azaria was voicing "Apu," an Indian-born American citizen, began to generate controversy after comedian and filmmaker Hari Kondabolu released a documentary called The Problem with Apu in 2017. The documentary argued that the portrayal of "Apu" contributed to negative and racist stereotypes faced by Americans of Indian and South Asian heritage.
The Simpsons' response to the controversy
Creators of The Simpsons initially resisted critiques of Azaria's voicing of "Apu." Azaria, however, was sympathetic to the critics and expressed in interviews a willingness to step aside from the role. On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Azaria stated: "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." The decision seems to now be official after Azaria confirmed during a recent industry panel that he won't voice "Apu" again.
What's next for "Apu"?
The future for "Apu" remains undecided. Azaria referenced the possibility that an Indian American could transition into the role. "Apu" could also be retired from the show. Azaria will continue to voice his usual roles on The Simpsons, including "Moe," "Chief Wiggum," and many of the show's other supporting characters.
The Simpsons is in the middle of its 31st season on Fox.