Hank Azaria has been doing the job. In 2017, the 56-year-old white voice actor was publicly criticized for voicing the character of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon (an Indian convenience store worker) in The Simpsons in a documentary titled The problem with Apu.
Later, Azaria stopped voicing the role, one of many she lends her talents to on the popular series. Now, during the last episode of the Armchair Expert Podcast, co-hosts Dax Shepard and Monica Padman (who is Indian) spoke with Azaria about her reaction to the documentary and how she has dealt with the controversy in the years since.
Azaria opened up to Shepard, a recovering addict, about his own sober journey through Alcoholics Anonymous, saying that recovery helped him respond to the situation with more care and tact.
He admitted that when he first heard about the backlash he had “a lot of defensive feelings” but added that “my training as a recovering boy, when my feelings are at their peak, I need to shut up and process those feelings and I need to listen and learn. “.
Azaria added that if he hadn’t been sober, his response probably would have been very different.
“If I hadn’t gotten sober in that time, and was still a drunk guy, I promise you, I promise you, I wouldn’t have needed a lot of wine, maybe half a glass, to be in my feelings one night and I threw some kind of tweet that I felt justified in shooting, “he admitted. “Sort of a fragile white defensive tweet. Wow, I’m glad I didn’t.”
Azaria said it took her around two years to process and learn, and said she was hesitant to make the decision quickly after voicing the iconic character since the late 1980s.
“I needed to see my part. I went and learned,” he shared. “I read and talked to people. I talked to a lot of Indian people. I talked to a lot of people who knew a lot about racism. I attended seminars.”
Azaria spoke about his involvement in “engaging in racism”, saying that for him it was “blind spots”.
“I really didn’t know any better,” he said. “I did not think”.
Noting that he is not a big fan of the term “white privilege”, Azaria called his privilege “relative advantage.”
“I didn’t know how much of a relative advantage I had received from Queens when I was a white kid,” he continued. “I didn’t think about these things because I never had to. There were very good intentions in all of us. We tried to make a fun and thoughtful character. Just because there are good intentions does not mean that there are no real negative consequences for who I am. responsable “.
After co-host Padman shared her own experiences on racism and gave her perspective on the situation, Azaria took the time to apologize to her as well, saying, “I really do apologize. I apologize for my part in creating that. , in participating in that. Part of me feels like I need to go out with every Indian person in this country and personally apologize. ”