The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has said that he is “proud” of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon following criticism of the character.
Original voice actor Hank Azaria stepped down from voicing the role last year, which came after a 2018 documentary called The Problem With Apu argued that the role was a racist stereotype.
Speaking about the criticism of the character and whether he would change anything, Groening has now told USA Today: “I think the Apu stories are fantastic, and he’s one of the most nuanced characters on a silly two-dimensional cartoon show.
“So, yeah, I’m proud of Apu. [Pause.] I’m trying not to open up another chasm of criticism, but it doesn’t matter what I say. I’ll get it anyway.”
The show creator also confirmed that they were yet to recast Apu, though said of their plans going forward: “We’ve got plans for Apu, but we have to see if we can make the stories work.
“We’re working on something kind of ambitious. That’s all I can say,” he added.
The Simpsons also announced last year that non-white characters would no longer be voiced by white actors on the show, Groening explaining that the decision was “not [his] idea”.
“But I’m fine with it,” he added. “Who can be against diversity? So it’s great. However, I will just say that the actors were not hired to play specific characters. They were hired to do whatever characters we thought of.
“To me, the amazing thing is seeing all our brilliant actors who can do multiple voices, do multiple voices. That’s part of the fun of animation, however, to be more inclusive and hire more people, I’m completely in favor of that.”
Explaining his decision to step away from the role of Apu, Azaria said last year: “Once I realised that that was the way this character was thought of, I just didn’t want to participate in it anymore. It just didn’t feel right.”
He added: “I didn’t want to knee-jerk drop it if I didn’t feel that was right, nor did I want to stubbornly keep doing it if that wasn’t right. But then I started thinking, if that character were the only representation of Jewish people in American culture for 20 years, which was the case with Apu, I might not love that.”