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Simpsons' actor willing to stop voicing controversial character, says his 'eyes have been opened

Hank Azaria, the voice of Apu on "The Simpsons," said he's willing to stop playing the character if that's the direction the show chooses to go. (Michael Nagle/Getty Images)

Hank Azaria, the voice actor who plays Apu on the animated show, "The Simpsons," said he is willing to step aside from the character, now that his "eyes have been opened" to the ways the character is offensive to South Asian people, CNN reported.

The character of Apu has been under increased scrutiny since a documentary titled, "The Problem with Apu," was released in November.

What's the story?

Since "The Problem with Apu," the show has faced a growing number of complaints about the character, who is Indian-American, has a thick accent, and runs a local convenience store.

The writers of the show addressed the controversy in a somewhat flippant way, crafting a scene in which Lisa Simpson said, "Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?" That acknowledgment did little to satisfy critics.

Azaria told Stephen Colbert on CBS' "The Late Show" that he didn't agree with the show's response and had no role in coming up with it.

"The idea that anybody, young or old, past or present was bullied or teased based on the character of Apu, it just really makes me sad," Azaria told Colbert. "It was certainly not my intention. I wanted to spread laughter and joy with this character and the idea that it's brought pain and suffering in any way, that it was used to marginalize people, it's upsetting."

"I'm perfectly willing and happy to step aside or help transition it into something new. I really hope that's what 'The Simpsons' does and it not only makes sense, but it just feels like the right thing to do," Azaria said.

Documentary writer criticizes show

Comedian Hari Kondabolou wrote "The Problem with Apu," and he criticized the way the show responded to him at the time.

"In 'The Problem with Apu,' I used Apu & The Simpsons as an entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalized groups," Kondabolou wrote on Twitter. "The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but what many of us consider progress."

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