Actor Hank Azaria says he feels the need to "personally apologise" to "every single Indian person in America" for playing the controversial Simpsons character Apu.
Appearing on Dax Sheppard's Armchair Expert podcast, Azaria addressed the negative impacts the role of the Indian convenience store worker had. The exaggerated accent and stereotypes used by Azaria in the role have been widely condemned as racist and offensive.
"There were very good intentions on all of our parts. We tried to do a funny, thoughtful character," Azaria said.
"And just because there were good intentions, it doesn't mean there weren't real negative consequences that I am accountable for."
Azaria said he was forced to reckon with the pain the character had caused during a speaking appearance at his son's school, where he spoke to some of the Indian students to get their input.
"A 17-year-old … he's never even seen The Simpsons but knows what Apu means. It's practically a slur at this point," Azaria said.
"All he knows is that is how his people are thought of and represented to many people in this country."
The actor said the teenager had tears in his eyes asked he asked Azaria to "please tell the writers in Hollywood that what they do and what they come up with matters in people's lives?"
"I really do apologize," Azaria said.
"It's important. I apologize for my part in creating that and participating in that. Part of me feels like I need to go to every single Indian person in this country and personally apologize. And sometimes I do."
The criticism over the character of Apu ramped up with the release of the 2017 documentary The Problem With Apu, made by Indian American comic Hari Kondabolu.
Azaria told Sheppard he wanted to avoid a "knee-jerk" reaction, instead taking seminars, reading books and speaking to Indian Americans to educate himself on "blind spot" around the role.
In early 2020, Azaria declared he would be leaving the role after 30 years of voicing Apu.