Hank Azaria Opens Up About Being 'Canceled' For Voicing Apu On 'The Simpsons'

It's been over a year since Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the convenience-store worker, disappeared from The Simpsons.

Hank Azaria, the man who voiced the character for 30 years, stepped down after being criticized for reinforcing racial stereotypes.

While Azaria has apologized about this before, he's speaking out again. He also discussed the impact the role has made on him, including how he was "intensely canceled."

This is Hank Azaria.


At first glance, you might remember him as David from Friends (he was the nerdy science guy who broke Phoebe's heart when he moved to Russia).

Or you might have seen him in movies, such as when he played the sleazy scuba instructor in Along Came Polly.

But at first listen, you'll recognize his voice from his many years as a renowned voice actor.


His impressive resume most notably includes The Simpsons, where he portrays five different characters on the show: Moe, Comic Book Guy, Carl Carlson, Chief Wiggum, and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.

Or at least, he did voice Apu.

That all changed back in January 2020 when he stepped down from the role.

Many found that Apu's character, especially voiced by a white actor, reinforced racial stereotypes.

“Once I realized that that was the way this character was thought of, I just didn’t want to participate in it anymore,” Hank told the New York Times. “It just didn’t feel right.”

At the time, Hank wasn't the only white actor to step down from playing an animated character of color.

In 2020, Jenny Slate decided to stop voicing a biracial character on the Netflix show, Big Mouth.

"Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people," she wrote on Instagram, adding that accepting the role was an example of "white privilege."

For those same reasons, Kristen Bell stepped down from voicing a biracial character on *Central Park*.

"Playing Molly in Central Park shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege," Bell tweeted.

"Casting a mixed-race character [with] a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed-race and Black American experience."

While Hank has already apologized for voicing the convenience-store worker character for 30 years, he is now saying that he wants to "personally apologize" to every Indian in America.

He recently made these comments on Monday's episode of Dax Shepard's Armchair Expert podcast.

"There were very good intentions on all of our parts. We tried to do a funny, thoughtful character," Azaria told Shepard and the show's cohost, Monica Padman.

"And just because there were good intentions, it doesn't mean there weren't real negative consequences that I am accountable for."

One of these real-life negative consequences was when he visited his son's school years ago.

There, he found himself face-to-face with a 17-year-old Indian American student who knew all about Apu's character without having watched an episode of The Simpsons.

"It's practically a slur at this point," Azaria said of his former character's portrayal.

"All he knows is this is how his people are thought of and represented to many people in this country still," Hank said of the 17-year-old.

He shared that the boy had tears in his eyes as he asked Hank to tell the writers in Hollywood that what they write affects people's lives and has consequences.

He also discussed how he was "intensely canceled" for playing Apu.


“I got canceled, however you want to put it,” he recalled, “and really intensely.”

But one thing he's learned through it all is a valuable lesson: Hollywood needs better representation for characters of color, whether in animation or not.

“If it’s an Indian character or a Latinx character or a Black character, please let’s have that person voice the character,” he said.

“It’s more authentic, they’ll bring their experience to it, and let’s not take jobs away from people who don’t have enough.”

For more of Hank's interview, check it out here.