Now he has revealed that he was “afraid” to appear in the 2017 documentary The Trouble With Apu, where Indian comedian Harry Kondabolu called out all the problems with the depiction, including the real life mockery of Indian people it had helped perpetuate.
“I was really freaked out,” Azaria revealed on the NPR podcast Code Switch, which also had Kondabolu as a guest, explaining why he turned down the offer to appear in the doc. “I don’t know if I would have felt safe to have the conversation privately, let alone roll them, you know, we’re going to record it.”
Azaria added that he was grateful for the comedian to have brought him to the topic, saying, “I’m so grateful for having – for Hari, you pushing – dragging me and pushing me…into this conversation.”
Kondabulu answered, “It means a lot for you to say that.”
Azaria told the podcast that, while he still found the documentary personally embarrassing, he understood that it was “a drop in the ocean compared to what [Kondabolu] went through.
“Through my role in Apu and what I created in the Hollywood messaging…I helped to create a pretty marginalizing, dehumanizing stereotype.”
Azaria revealed he hadn’t realized how many people took issue with Apu until after watching the doc.
“It’s symbolic of a much larger dynamic. If nothing else, watching the doc, I was like: ‘Oh, I admire all these performers. A character I did – I, like, hindered them? I caused them pain? I actually actively made their path harder? That sucks.’”