Controversy didn’t keep Hank Azaria from scoring his 13th Primetime Emmy nomination.
The actor — who has voice-acted on almost 650 episodes of The Simpsons — was nominated for an Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance on Tuesday despite a major controversy surrounding one of the characters he’s most known for: Apu.
The Indian-American character has become increasingly criticized as coming across as an offensive stereotype and, while not officially off the show, has been effectively silenced on the series this past season.
But Azaria is a man of many voices and has been nominated for bringing Moe, Carl, Duffman, and Kirk to life. (He has been nominated for his work on the animated series seven times before, as well as for his live-action work on Ray Donovan, Huff, Friends, Tuesdays with Morrie, and Mad About You.) This year, he is nominated alongside Kevin Michael Richardson (F Is for Family‘s “Rosie”), Alex Borstein (Family Guy‘s “Lois Griffin” and “Tricia Takanawa”), Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy’s “Peter,” “Stewie,” “Brian,” and more), and Eric Jacobson (Sesame Street‘s “Bert,” “Grover,” and “Oscar.”)
“We have had the conversation with [executive producer] Jim Brooks and his team and we’ve basically left it up to them,” Fox chairman and CEO Dana Walden said last August of how the show would handle the backlash against Apu. “They’ve treated the characters with so much respect. We trust them to handle it in a way that will be best for the show… ultimately we decided that would be their decision.”
The show’s previous cavalier attempt to address the controversy in April 2018 was met with ire from some fans. In an episode, Lisa declares, “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” As she says that last line, she looks at a nearby picture of Apu featuring Bart’s catchphrase, “Don’t have a cow!”
The Simpsons returns for an unprecedented 31st season on Sept. 29.