Hank Azaria has announced he is willing to "step aside" from voicing long-running The Simpsons figure, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, following controversy surrounding the character

US comic Hari Kondabolu's 2017 documentary, The Problem With Apu, suggested that the character portrays negative stereotypes about people of Indian and South Asian heritage and Azaria addressed the topic during an appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert this week. 

"The idea that anybody young or old, past or present, was bullied or teased based on the character of Apu, it just really makes me sad," the 54-year-old actor said.

"It was certainly not my intention, I wanted to spread laughter and joy with this character."

Azaria, who has voiced Apu since the character's introduction in1990, continued, "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.

read more:

"… I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the [writers] room, not in a token way, but genuinely informing whatever new direction this character may take, including how it is voiced or not voiced.

"I'm perfectly willing and happy to step aside or help transition it into something new. I really hope that’s what The Simpsons does. It not only makes sense, but it just feels like the right thing to do, to me."

The iconic TV animation was slammed earlier this month when it seemingly addressed the controversy in a recent episode, however Azaria claims he had no part in the making of that particular scene. 

"It was a late addition that I saw right around the same time that everybody else in America did," he said.

"So I didn’t know it was going to be in it until I saw it."

Azaria's comments on The Late Show were widely praised, including by Kondabolu who tweeted, "Thank you, @HankAzaria. I appreciate what you said & how you said it".

Watch the full clip below.