THE Simpsons’ Apu actor Hank Azaria has revealed the "uncomfortable and upsetting" truth behind his exit – and branded the race row a "blind spot".
The 55-year-old quit voicing the Indian shopkeeper in the long-running animated sitcom in January after 30 years.
Speaking about the move, Hank said reaching the decision was a lengthy process which led to him telling producers he was no longer comfortable doing the voice last year.
Speaking to The New York Times, Hank said: "When I expressed how uncomfortable I was doing the voice of the character, they were very sympathetic and supportive. We were all in agreement.”
Issues surrounding Apu intensified in 2017 after the documentary The Problem With Apu aired on truTV, exploring why the character is an offensive stereotype of South Asian people.
Hank admitted to the publication his first reaction to the controversy "was to bristle".
But after delving more into the issues of representation, racism and social consciousness, he began to feel more and more uncomfortable with his work as Apu.
He added: "That represents a real blind spot I had. There I am, joyfully basing a character on what was already considered quite upsetting.”
Hank previously told The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in 2018: "I’ve given this a lot of thought — really a lot of thought — and, as I say, my eyes have been opened.
"And I think the most important thing is we have to listen to South Asian people, Indian people in this country, when they talk about what they feel and how they think about this character, and what their American experience of it has been.”
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In a statement, The Simpsons producers acknowledged Hank's decision to no longer voice Apu, but would not confirm what the future holds for the character.
They said: "Apu is beloved worldwide. We love him too. Stay tuned."
However, Hank will continue to voice other characters on The Simpsons including bartender Moe Szyslak.