Matt Groening on ‘The Simpsons’ recasting ethnic minority characters: “Times change”

"It was never designed to exclude anyone"

The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has responded to the show’s commitment to recasting non-white voice roles.

Following the backlash that was prompted by the 2018 documentary The Problem With Apu, The Simpsons subsequently recast a number of ethnic minority characters who had previously been voiced by white actors.

“Times change,” Groening told the BBC, adding: “But I actually didn’t have a problem with the way we were doing it.”

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He added: “All of our actors play dozens of characters each, it was never designed to exclude anyone.”

Simpsons creator Matt Groening

Asked whether he regretted how the show handled the backlash, Groening said: “At a certain point it doesn’t matter what you say. You’re going to be attacked by by whoever, you know?

“We’re not going out of our way to comfort bigots. On the other hand, if you do any kind of gesture and people perceive a weakness, you’ll be criticised.”

Hank Azaria, who had voiced the character of Apu since 1990, stepped down at the start of last year.

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“Once I realised that that was the way this character was thought of, I just didn’t want to participate in it anymore,” Azaria said to The New York Times at the time. “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,” he added.

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