The controversial character’s future on the show remains unclear.
Azaria himself confirmed the retirement of this particular voice (of the dozens he’s brought to the show over the last 30-plus years) to SlashFilm during a recent panel for his Brockmire series. “I won’t be doing the voice anymore, unless there’s someway to transition it or something,” Azaria said during the panel. He notes the choice was mutual, (“We all made the decision together,”) but stopped short of sealing Apu’s fate.
In fact, it remains unclear whether Azaria stepping down as Apu amounts to the character’s all-out erasure. Azaria goes on, “What they’re going to do with the character is their call. “It’s up to them and they haven’t sorted it out yet. All we’ve agreed on is I won’t do the voice anymore.”
Calls for Azaria to stop voicing the character owner gained steam in 2017 when comedian Hari Kondabolu released the documentary, The Problem with Apu, which highlighted how Azaria’s portrayal of the Indian Kwik-E Mart owner intensified and concentrated South Asian stereotypes. Since its release, Simpsons showrunners have claimed they would phase out the character and even addressed the controversy in a 2018 episode.
But the show’s creator, Matt Groening, denied any such movement in his camp. Azaria’s announcement just might force his hand, though.