'The Simpsons' producer responds to claim Apu is leaving
Posted October 29, 2018 11:07 a.m. EDT
(CNN) — Are we losing Apu Nahasapeemapetilon?
There's speculation that could happen, after "Castlevania" executive producer and show runner Adi Shankar recently told IndieWire "The Simpsons" has decided to drop the controversial character.
"I got some disheartening news back, that I've verified from multiple sources now: They're going to drop the Apu character altogether," Shankar said. "They aren't going to make a big deal out of it, or anything like that, but they'll drop him altogether just to avoid the controversy."
Shankar told the publication he'd gotten the info from "two people who work for 'The Simpsons' and a third source who works directly with creator Matt Groening."
"Simpsons" executive producer Al Jean weighed in Sunday.
"Adi Shankar is not a producer on the Simpsons," Jean tweeted. "I wish him the very best but he does not speak for our show."
Shankar responded with a tweet of his own.
"I wish you well too. Let's work towards common ground," he tweeted. "Ignoring only fans the flames. The world is polarized & getting more so, and the onus is on us to bring people together. Engage in a constructive way and this matter will go to bed. I see you, now I'm asking you to see me."
Comedian Hari Kondabolu's documentary "The Problem with Apu" debuted last November and looked at Apu as a negative stereotype of South Asians.
Nahasapeemapetilon is Indian-American and operates the Kwik-E-Mart convenience store in Springfield. The animated character is voiced by actor Hank Azaria, who is not South Asian.
In his doc, Kondabolu interviewed celebrities of South Asian descent, including Aziz Ansari and Kal Penn, to discuss how characterizations like Apu can be viewed as racism.
In April, the show took on the controversy. Mother Marge reads a book to daughter Lisa, referring to the heroine as a "cisgender girl" and trying to modernize the action.
'The Simpsons' addresses Apu stereotype criticism
The characters discuss changing times and being more sensitive to them.
Lisa says "Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?" before looking at a framed photograph of Apu inscribed, "Don't have a cow."
Weeks later, Shankar announced his contest, "Apu Screenwriting Contest: Crowdsourcing the Cure for The Simpsons."
'Castlevania' producer wants you to fix Apu on 'The Simpsons'
"We are looking for a screenplay centering on the character 'Apu' set in the world and canon of 'The Simpsons' that takes the character of Apu and in a clever way subverts him, pivots him, intelligently writes him out, or evolves him in a way that takes a mean spirited mockery and transforms him into a kernel of truth wrapped in funny insight aka actual satire," according to the site promoting the competition.
"This contest is open to people of all ethnicities and cultures, however, if you don't have any experience with Indian culture in America then you may not have the perspective and experience to write well on this topic."
Earlier this year, Azaria said on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" that he'd be willing to abandon the role.
"I really want to see Indian, South Asian writer, writers in the room, not in a token way but genuinely informing whatever new direction this character may take, including how it is voiced or not voiced," Azaria said. "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 to me."