The Simpsons premiered in 1989, and for the past 26 years, Hank Azaria has played Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the Kwik-E-Mart owner whose perpetually heavy Indian accent has been an (at times unwittingly) defining feature of the comedy series.

But as of the latest season, Azaria has said that he will no longer be playing Apu — though he will remain a regular on the show — as part of a “dramatic change” for the series that aims to incorporate more diversity.

“I’m not the right actor to play that part,” Azaria said of the character during a press conference for the show in Los Angeles. “I’ve been profoundly grateful to play the character for all these years.”

“As the creator of the series, you want to keep moving forward,” the actor went on to say, “and it felt like a great time to update the character in a dramatic way. It felt a bit like a character transplant.”

So how will the writers add to Apu’s character to not just show that the character is “getting past this thing that people have been afraid of,” as creator Matt Groening suggested during the press conference, but also to further display to younger viewers (one of the show’s primary target demographics) that Apu’s real identity is not of a muslim but of a “Hindu-American man of Indian descent,” according to Groening.

“There was a time when no one spoke to the media about [Indians] because they didn’t have the platforms to speak to the media about that stuff,” Azaria said. “But there is now a cultural voice that is not represented, and now we can do that.”

Read the full story at The Hollywood Reporter.


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