Since last fall, the future of The Simpsons character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon has been up in the air due to mounting controversy over the show’s racial stereotyping. Now, creator Matt Groening has officially confirmed that our favorite Kwik-E-Mart employee won’t be written out of the series.
Groening made the announcement during Disney’s D23 Expo in Anaheim over the weekend. According to Variety, when asked about Apu’s status going forward, he assured that the character was here to say. “Yes. We love Apu,” he reportedly said. “We’re proud of Apu.”
The racial debate surrounding Apu reached a boiling point following Hari Kondabolu’s 2017 documentary The Problem with Apu, while the rumors regarding Apu’s exit came last October via YouTube personality and Castlevania producer Adi Shankar. In an interview for IndieWire, he said The Simpsons planned to “drop the Apu character” altogether “just to avoid the controversy.”
Al Jean, the long-running TV show’s executive producer, responded at the time by saying Shankar did “not speak for our show.” However, he offered no definitive clarification regarding Apu’s status on the series.
Hank Azaria, who voices Apu as well as other Simpsons characters, chimed into the conversation by saying he’d be “perfectly happy and willing to step aside,” adding, “listening to voices means inclusion in the writer’s room. I really want to see Indians, South Asian 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.”
The 31st season of The Simpsons premieres September 29th. An early look at the season was revealed last week and featured a parody of Donald Trump.