Don’t hold your breath waiting for “The Simpsons” to ditch Apu.
“The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening came to quick defense of the beloved Indian-American cashier, Apu on his long-running animated series, telling reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour on Sunday that retiring the character (or recasting him) has not come up in conversation with the show’s producers.
“Haven’t talked about it. I’m proud of everything we do on ‘The Simpsons.’ But I’m here to talk about ‘Disenchantment,'” Groening said, sidestepping the issue.
Yes, Groening was on hand to discuss his new animated show for Netflix, starring Abbi Jacobson and Eric Andre. Still, the question over the future of Apu has followed Groening in recent months, after filmmaker Hari Kondabolu made “The Problem With Apu,” a documentary accusing the character of perpetuating negative stereotypes.
Groening already made his displeasure with the criticism of Apu known in April, telling USA Today, “I think it’s a time in our culture where people love to pretend they’re offended.” He expanded on those comments earlier this month to The New York Times.
“Well, I love Apu. I love the character, and it makes me feel bad that it makes other people feel bad,” said Groening. “But on the other hand, it’s tainted now — the conversation, there’s no nuance to the conversation now. It seems very, very clunky. I love the character. I love the show.”
Hank Azaria — who voices Apu, as well as several other characters on “The Simpsons” – told Stephen Colbert in April that he’d be “perfectly happy and willing to step aside” from playing the character.
“Or help transition it into something new,” Azaria continued. “I really hope that’s what ‘The Simpsons’ does. It not only makes sense, it just feels like the right thing to do to me.”
Groening’s comments on Sunday also seemed at odds with what “The Simpsons” producer Mike Reiss recently told Joe Scarborough. Reiss said the documentary was late to conversation because Apu “hasn’t been on the show in three years. We put him out to pasture. No one seems to notice.” Apu did make an appearance in the Season 28 episode “Monty Burn’s Fleeing Circus” in 2016, however.