“All we know there is I won’t be doing the voice anymore, unless there’s some way to transition it or something,” Azaria told Slashfilm at the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Thursday. “We all made the decision together… We all agreed on it. We all feel like it’s the right thing and good about it.”
There’s no word yet on whether the character of Apu — the Indian Kwik-E-Mart proprietor who’s been a part of the long-running Fox comedy since its first season — will be retired, or if another actor will now voice the role. (Fox had no comment on the report when reached by TVLine.) “What they’re going to do with the character is their call,” Azaria added. “It’s up to them, and they haven’t sorted it out yet. All we’ve agreed on is I won’t do the voice anymore.”
Azaria’s performance as Apu came under fire with the release of a documentary titled The Problem With Apu, which followed comedian Hari Kondabolu as he explored how the character of Apu — and his portrayal by a white actor — led to demeaning stereotypes of Indian-Americans like him. The Simpsons responded to the controversy with a snide joke at first, but executive producer Al Jean later pledged “to find an answer” to the controversy “that is popular [and] more important right.” At the time, Azaria volunteered to step away from voicing the role and “help transition it into something new.”
The town of Springfield isn’t shutting down anytime soon, though: The Simpsons, currently airing its 31st (!) season Sundays at 8/7c on Fox, was renewed for two additional seasons back in February.