Veteran voice and sitcom actor Hank Azaria, who plays the Indian character Apu in The Simpsons, announced he is stepping down from the role following years of controversy.
Azaria, who is white, has been the voice of the Indian convenience store owner since the character was created in 1990. Apu’s portrayal, including a thick “Indian” accent, has in recent years been accused of reinforcing racial stereotypes.
It is not known if Apu would get a new voice or be dropped from the long-running cartoon series.
"All we know is I won't be doing the voice anymore, unless there's some way to transition it or something," Azaria told the website SlashFilm.
Controversy over the character of immigrant shopkeeper Apu Nahasapeemapetilon intensified in 2017 when Indian-American comic Hari Kondabolu made a documentary saying he was founded on racial stereotypes.
In his documentary, The Problem with Apu, he said the character was one of the only representations of South Asians on US television when he was growing up and other children imitated the character to mock him.
Others joined the criticism, while some defended the show, saying all of its characters were stereotypes.
Azaria, who also provides the voices of popular characters Moe Szyslak and Chief Wiggum, among others, had said he found it "very upsetting to me personally and professionally" that anyone was marginalised because of Apu and that he would be willing to stop playing the character.
The Simpsons itself addressed the controversy in a 2018 episode. In the scene, Marge changes a bedtime story to make it more politically correct, but her daughter objects.
Reacting to reports that Azaria had stepped down, Kondabolu said he hoped the character remained in the show.
"My documentary The Problem with Apu was not made to get rid of a dated cartoon character, but to discuss race, representation & my community (which I love very much). It was also about how you can love something (like the Simpsons) & still be critical about aspects of it (Apu)," he wrote on Twitter.