Fisher Stevens regrets 'Short Circuit' role where he played an Indian character: 'It definitely haunts me'05/12/2021
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Fisher Stevens really regrets appearing as an Indian character in brownface for the 1986 movie “Short Circuit” and its subsequent sequel.
Stevens, who was born in Chicago, plays Ben Jabituya in the science fiction comedy about two scientists whose advanced robot gains sentience. While the Johnny 5 robot character is still revered as a staple of 1980s comedies, Stevens’ role and the subsequent darkening of his skin to appear as an Indian man is often criticized to this day for portraying a stereotype and taking a role away from an Indian actor.
Speaking to Yahoo Entertainment, Stevens explained that he agrees with that criticism and feels guilt over the role in hindsight.
“It definitely haunts me,” he told the outlet. “I still think it’s a really good movie, but I would never do that part again. The world was a different place in 1986, obviously.”
Actor Fisher Stevens on set of the movie "Short Circuit 2", circa 1988.
(Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Stevens notes that the role was for “a White guy” when he initially read the script and signed on to be in the movie. However, somewhere along the line, the minds behind the movie decided to change things up and make the character an Indian man. At the time, Stevens was a young actor without the clout to push back on the decision.
“They rewrote it, and were like, ‘Can you play it?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I can do it. Let me learn.’ It’s a weird thing when you’re 21 and you’re trying to get a job,” he explained.
In an effort to mitigate the decision to cast a White person in an Indian role, he tried his best at the time to study Indian culture to portray the part as authentically as he could, even moving to India for a month ahead of filming “Short Circuit 2,” which came out in 1988.
Despite studying and later expressing his regret, Stevens’ role as Jabituya has been used countless times as an example of Hollywood whitewashing. Most notably in comedian Aziz Ansari’s Netflix series “Master of None.”
“I have friends who are Indian, and they’re still mad at me. They’re like, ‘What were you thinking?'” Stevens explained to Yahoo Entertainment. “My wife [Alexis Bloom] isn’t happy about it either. She keeps telling me, ‘Look what you did!'”
Although he’s considered by many to be the worst part of the movie franchise, Stevens still believes the story has legs in the modern-day and would be open for a reboot, provided the minds behind it make one very important change.
Fisher Stevens opened up about his regret over playing an Indian character in ‘Short Circuit.’
(Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images)
“I think it would be a great movie to reboot, and just not cast me,” he said while laughing.
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Stevens joins fellow actor Hank Azaria, who recently issued an apology for voicing the character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon on “The Simpsons.”
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“I was speaking at my son’s school, I was talking to the Indian kids there because I wanted to get their input,” Azaria said during an appearance on the “Armchair Expert” podcast (via The Hollywood Reporter). “A 17-year-old… he’s never even seen ‘The Simpsons’ but knows what Apu means. It’s practically a slur at this point. All he knows is that is how his people are thought of and represented to many people in this country.”
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