Hank Azaria: It's 'distressing' that people were teased about Apu

Hank Azaria: It's 'distressing' that people were teased about Apu

Hank Azaria is breaking huge 'Simpsons' news - Apu, one of the characters he voices, could be going away on the heels of a documentary accusing the hit show of racism. In it, Kondabolu attempts to talk with Azaria about the character (an invite Azaria ultimately declines) while discussing Apu's effect with notable South Asian talents including Kal Penn and Aziz Ansari.

The producers of The Simpsons have been mum on The Problem with Apu, a recent truTV documentary from comedian (and Simpsons fan) Hari Kondabolu that asserts that the Indian Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is a problematic stereotype of South Asian people.

So, will Apu vanish from Springfield? Azaria has confirmed that the show will "definitely address" the issue in some capacity. Kondabolu interviewed Simpsons producers and many of his fellow South Asian actors, all of whom recalled having to answer for the character at some point. "The idea that anybody was marginalized based on it or had a time was very upsetting to me personally and professionally".

"As far as what's going to happen with the character going forward, it's really not just up to me", Azaria said at TCA.

"I think it's really important when people express themselves about racial issues, what they feel is unfair or upsetting or distressing or makes them angry, sad or hurt", Azaria continued. It's a character I've done for 29 years now, and I've done it with a lot of love, and joy, and pride. "The most important thing to do is listen, try to understand, try to sympathize, which is what I'm doing. I know The Simpsons guys are doing that too". "[Creating negative stereotypes] certainly wasn't the intent".

He added that his only intention in bringing Apu to life was, and still is, to "make people laugh and bring joy". "That it caused any kind of suffering or pain in any way, it's disturbing actually".

The actor said "The Simpsons" exists on that fine line between what is amusing and what is insulting.

"The Simpsons over the years have been pretty humorously offensive to all manner of people - Republicans, Brazilians, presidents, high school principals, Italians - and they take a lot of pride over there in not apologising for any of that. They will definitely address - maybe publicly, certainly creatively within the context of the show - what they want to do, if anything, with the character", he said. "I think they've done a really good job of being, shall we say, uniformly offensive without being outright hurtful".

Azaria's future with The Simpsons may be up in the air right now, but he has one upcoming project set in stone: season two of the comedy series Brockmire, which returns to IFC this spring.