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Hank Azaria on Why He Chose to Not Appear in ‘The Problem With Apu’: “I Was Really Freaked Out”


Hank Azaria and Hari Kondabolu finally get a chance to have a public conversation about the latter’s documentary The problem with Apu.

During an episode of the NPR podcast Code switchAzaria joined Kondabolu to discuss the comedian and writer’s 2017 project that criticized the Simpsons character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon as a South Asian stereotype and cited the fact that a white actor voiced him. Azaria had voiced the Kwik-E-Mart employee since the long-running comedy’s first season before announcing in early 2020 that he would no longer be playing the character. The show did not recast the role.

Kondabolu told Azaria that he had wanted him to appear in the truTV documentary in hopes that it would discourage angry reactions to the film, in addition to ending the discussion. Kondabolu recalled being upset when the actor chose not to appear The problem with Apu, which Kondabolu wrote and Michael Melamedoff directed. “It’s funny because I actually thought you were going to say no, but I was still mad about it,” Kondabolu said. “I was like ‘God doesn’t he realize what this could be?'”

Azaria, for his part, recalled that at the time he was “afraid” to take part in a camera call with Kondabolu. “I was really terrified,” says de Brockmire actor said. “You’re a comedian, and some of your stuff is gotcha and has spunk, as it should be. It’s hilarious and makes good points. Being on the other side of that really, really scared me. Like I said to you back then, I didn’t feel safe… I don’t know if I would have felt safe having the conversation in private let alone ‘Roll em — we’re gonna record.’”

Kondabolu said there is “a lot of irony and frustration” in the fact that he sometimes wonders if he made the documentary, given that it has indelibly linked him to a stereotyped character, and also discussed the death threats he received said to have received. above the movie. Azaria said he now appreciates the documentary’s impact and apologized for not initially confirming it publicly.

“I’m so grateful, Hari, for dragging me into this conversation,” Azaria said. he added The problem with Apu: “It is still so embarrassing to me. And again, whatever I personally felt about it is not a drop in a bucket – a drop in the ocean – compared to what you just referred to, which is what your community has been dealing with as a result.

During a 2021 episode of the Armchair Expert podcast, Azaria explained that he took time to listen to complaints about the character, including attending various seminars, before stepping back from the role. “I apologize for my part in creating it and participating in it,” he said at the time. “Part of me feels like I have to go to every Indian person in this country and personally apologize. And sometimes I do.”

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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