Quantico star Priyanka Chopra has added her voice to the chorus of criticism surrounding The Simpsons‘ Apu, saying she was teased growing up because of the character’s stereotypical portrayal.
The Indian actress addressed the controversy in an interview on The View on Thursday, confessing that Apu “was the bane of my life growing up.” (Click to 4:40 on the video above for the portion about Apu.) Because Apu was the only portrayal of Indian people on TV at the time, Chopra — who moved to the U.S. at age 13 — faced teasing remarks from classmates: “Did I find gold in my rivers? Did I go to school on elephants?”
Chopra concedes that Apu has been a part of The Simpsons for nearly 30 years now, but points out that the population of Indian-Americans have tripled since then, “so the voice is louder… the demand for representation from people of color is louder.” She thinks The Simpsons‘ unprecedented run in primetime and influence “gives it more responsibility” to change with the times, concluding: “It’s out of date.”
The Simpsons has been under fire from critics — most prominently, comedian Hari Kondabolu and his documentary The Problem With Apu — who see the character of Apu, voiced by white cast member Hank Azaria, as a demeaning stereotype. The show alluded to the controversy in an episode last month with a swipe some saw as tone-deaf, but Azaria has said he understands the outcry and is “perfectly willing” to stop voicing Apu or help transition the character “into something new.”