Last year the years-old controversy around the character of Apu in the popular animated show The Simpsons blew over such that Hank Azaria, the actor voicing him, decided to step down. The makers of The Simpsons even announced that from now on the show would “no longer have white actors voice non-white characters” and since then, it has been recasting its recurring characters of color. And now the show has taken its wave of revolution and inclusivity a step further by announcing that openly gay Cuban-American actor Tony Rodriguez would be voicing the character of Julio from now on.
Julio, who is a gay Cuban character on The Simpsons, was previously voiced by Hank Azaria as well. The character is now being voiced by Rodriguez, who made his debut on March’s episode, “Uncut Femmes.” But the show’s decision to recast the character is not only driven by their aim to ensure that characters of color are voiced by people of color but also the fact that the animated series doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to LGBTQ representation as well.
The problem was detailed in a two and half hour supercut of “Every LGBT Joke On the Simpsons Ever,” that was created by Drew Mackie and Glen Lakin of the Gayest Episode Ever podcast, wherein every insensitive and careless joke about the LGBTQ+ in the show was underlined. But the best thing is that the creators of The Simpsons weren’t offended by the video and were instead humbled by it.
Matt Selman, one of the executive producers on The Simspons, even credited Drew Mackie and Glen Lakin while announcing Rodriguez’s casting and added that it was the LGBT jokes video that “definitely had a hand in this magic coming together.”
In fact, it was this video that prompted Rodriguez to put a video on his Youtube channel where he appealed to The Simpsons’ producers to appoint him as the voice of Julio. The actor also talked about the video mentioning his name and actually contributing to him getting the opportunity to be a part of The Simpsons on a recent Gayest Ever Podcast.
“[‘The Simpsons’] showrunner, Matt Selman, had seen the supercut, heard the podcast and heard you say my name,” he said. “By that point, my video was out, and he asked the other writers of the show: ‘Does anyone know who Tony Rodriguez is?’”
He added that at that point, when the supercut was released, the creators of The Simpsons were already planning to recast the character of Julio for weeks.
Hank Azaria, who used to voice the character before, had recently talked about stepping down from his roles in a recent episode of the “Armchair Expert” podcast. He explained that his decision to willingly remove himself from the role of Apu was based on the lessons he learned while playing the character on The Simpsons. He shared how he attended seminars and interacted with many people who pointed out the issues with the characters and “practically a slur” for many. Hank Azaria even publicly apologized to Indians for playing a character that was a majorly racially stereotyped representation of their culture.
But The Simpsons is now on its way to right its wrong and recasting its characters like Apu and Julio is just the first step.