'The Simpsons' star Hank Azaria reveals why he quit Apu role: 'It just didn't feel right'

Hank Azaria of "Brockmire" speaks during the IFC segment of the 2020 Winter TCA Press Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 16, 2020 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

The Simpsons actor Hank Azaria has explained he stepped down from voicing the character of Apu earlier this year due to claims of racism.

The actor, who is white, voiced the Indian Kwik-E-Mart owner for three decades before his depiction of the character was delved into in 2017 documentary The Problem With Apu.

"Once I realised that that was the way this character was thought of, I just didn’t want to participate in it anymore. It just didn’t feel right," he told the New York Times.

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The 55-year-old said he based his performance off of Peter Sellers' role in 1968 film The Party, without knowing it was a performance that had come to be regarded as racist.

Hank Azaria stepped down from voicing Apu in January. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Getty Images)

“That represents a real blind spot I had. There I am, joyfully basing a character on what was already considered quite upsetting," Azaria went on.

The former Friends star shared that he attended seminars on racism and read articles about representation, prompted by the documentary.

He also explained that writers of the long-running cartoon were "very sympathetic and supportive" when he expressed he was no longer comfortable voicing Apu.

Actress Nancy Cartwright, creator Matt Groening, actress Yeardley Smith and actor Hank Azaria at the Matt Groening Hollywood Walk Of Fame ceremony on February 14, 2012 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)

When Azaria announced he would be stepping down, The Problem With Apu filmmaker Hari Kondabolu said he hoped The Simpsons would hold on to the character.

He tweeted: “If Hank Azaria is indeed no longer doing the voice of Apu, I do hope they keep the character & let a very talented writing staff do something interesting with him.

“If not to better the show, then to at least spare me some death threats.”