Simpsons actor Hank Azaria says he will no longer voice Apu

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The character of Apu is seen in an episode of The SimpsonsImage source, TCFFC
Image caption,
Hank Azaria has voiced Apu for 30 years

The voice actor who plays the Indian character Apu in The Simpsons has said he is stepping down from the role, following years of controversy.

White actor Hank Azaria has performed the voice of the Indian convenience store owner since the character was created in 1990.

But the character has been accused of reinforcing racial stereotypes.

It was not immediately clear if Apu would get a new voice or be dropped from the cartoon.

"All we know there is I won't be doing the voice anymore, unless there's some way to transition it or something," Mr Azaria told the website SlashFilm.

"We all made the decision together... We all agreed on it. We all feel like it's the right thing and good about it."

Controversy over the character of immigrant shopkeeper Apu Nahasapeemapetilon intensified in 2017 when Indian-American comic Hari Kondabolu made a documentary saying he was founded on racial stereotypes.

Mr Kondabolu told the BBC that the character was problematic because he is defined by his job and how many children he has in his arranged marriage.

In his documentary, The Problem with Apu, he said Apu was one of the only representations of South Asians on US television when he was growing up and other children imitated the character to mock him.

Others joined the criticism, while some defended the show, saying all of its characters were stereotypes.

At the time, Mr Azaria - who also provides the voice of popular characters Moe Szyslak and Chief Wiggum, among others - said he found it "very upsetting to me personally and professionally" that anyone was marginalised because of Apu.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Hank Azaria provides the voices of numerous characters in the hit show

He also said he would be willing to stop playing the character.

The Simpsons itself addressed the controversy in a 2018 episode. In the scene, Marge changes a bedtime story to make it more politically correct, but her daughter objects. A distressed Marge then asks her daughter what she is supposed to do.

Lisa turns to the camera and says: "It's hard to say. Something that started a long time ago, decades ago, that was applauded and was inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?"

She then signals to a photograph of Apu by her bedside, which is signed: "Don't have a cow - Apu".

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Hari Kondabolu: "The show threw Lisa Simpson under the bus"

Reacting to reports that Mr Azaria had stepped down, Mr Kondabolu said he hoped the character remained in the show and that "a very talented writing staff do something interesting with him."

"My documentary "The Problem with Apu" was not made to get rid of a dated cartoon character, but to discuss race, representation & my community (which I love very much). It was also about how you can love something (like the Simpsons) & still be critical about aspects of it (Apu)," he wrote on Twitter.