'I didn't feel safe': Why Hank Azaria turned down request to appear on The Problem with Apu
Hank Azaria was "afraid" to appear on 'The Problem with Apu'.
The 2017 documentary was written by and starred Hari Kondabolu and criticised 'The Simpsons' character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon for personifying South Asian stereotypes and being voiced by a white man, and the voice actor - who announced in early 2020 that he'd no longer play the Kwik-E-Mart employee - admitted he "didn't feel safe" discussing the issue on camera.
In an episode of the 'Code Switch' podcast, Hari explained he had wanted Hank to appear in the documentary in the hope it would discourage angry reactions to the film and to provide closure on the discussion, but the actor admitted he was too "afraid" to accept the invitation.
He said: “I was really freaked out.
“You’re a comedian, and some of your stuff is ‘gotcha’ and has bite to it, as well it should. It’s hilarious and makes good points.
"Being on the other end of that really, really scared me. Like I said to you at the time, I didn’t feel safe … I don’t know if I would have felt safe to have the conversation privately, let alone ‘Roll em — we’re gonna record it.'”
Though Hari expected Hank to say no, the comic admitted he was "still upset" by his decision.
He said: “It’s funny because I kind of figured you’d say no, but I was still upset about it. I was like, ‘God does he not realize what this could be?'”
Hank admitted he now better understands the impact of the documentary.
He said: “I’m so grateful for, Hari, you dragging and pushing me into this conversation."
He added about 'The Problem With Apu': “It’s still so personally embarrassing to me. And again, whatever I felt personally about it is not a drop a bucket — a drop in the ocean — compared to what you just referred to, which is what your community has had to deal with as a result of it.”
The voice actor previously admitted he feels he owes a personal apology to "every single Indian person" in the US.
He said on the 'Armchair Expert' podcast in 2021: “I apologise 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.”