Azaria – a white man – voiced the Indian shopkeeper for 30 years, but his depiction came under fire in a 2017 documentary titled The Problem With Apu.
The documentary saw comedian Hari Kondabolu investigate why the character was problematic and a racial stereotype.
Azaria has now told The New York Times: “Once I realised that that was the way this character was thought of, I just didn’t want to participate in it anymore. It just didn’t feel right.”
He added that he “joyfully based” the voice on a character played by Peter Sellers in 1968 film The Party – something he had no idea had come to be regarded as racist.
“That represents a real blind spot I had,” Azara continued. “There I am, joyfully basing a character on what was already considered quite upsetting.”
Azaria revealed that he attended seminars about racism and read articles about representation following the broadcast of The Problem With Apu.
It was soon after that he told the long-running animated show’s producers he wanted to quit.
“When I expressed how uncomfortable I was doing the voice of the character, they were very sympathetic and supportive,” Azaria continued. “We were all in agreement.”
Fans of The Simpsons based in the UK were furious to discover that the series will not be available to watch on Disney+, when the streaming service is finally released in the UK next month.
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