The Simpsons star Hank Azaria has said he's willing to "step aside" from voicing the role of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon following a controversy that the character is reinforcing racial stereotypes.

The actor appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert where he said his "eyes had been opened" by the debate which was sparked by The Problem With Apu, a 2017 documentary made by Indian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu.

The documentary explores the negative stereotypes that the character propagates and also explained how the Apu's catchphrase "Thank you, come again!" was used by children and young people to bully south Asian Americans.

When asked by talkshow host Colbert what he thinks should happen with the character going forward, Azaria offered several solutions, saying: "I've given this a lot of thought, and as I say my eyes have been opened. I think the most important thing is to listen to Indian people and their experience with it.

"I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the writers room… including how [Apu] is voiced or not voiced. I'm perfectly willing and happy to step aside, or help transition it into something new.

"It not only makes sense, it just feels like the right thing to do to me."

Azaria said he was saddened by the idea that Apu was being used to mock South Asians, explaining: "The idea that anyone young or old, past or present, being bullied based on Apu really makes me sad.

"It certainly was not my intention. I wanted to bring joy and laughter to people."

Azaria also distanced himself from the show's controversial response to the Apu criticisms, which included a scene that ended with a picture of Apu with the phrase "don’t have a cow" on it.

Following the interview, Kondabolu took to Twitter to thank Azaria for his stance.

The actor has played the character of Apu in the long-running animated series since 1990. He also voices several other characters including Chief Wiggum and Comic Book Guy.

Take a look at the full interview with Hank Azaria below.

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