Fisher Stevens regrets doing brownface in Short Circuit: 'It definitely haunts me'
Thirty-five years after Fisher Stevens' breakout role in the sci-fi comedy Short Circuit, the actor is opening up about the regret he feels for playing an Indian character in brownface.
Fisher, who now produces and directs, played Indian engineer Ben Jabituya in the 1986 film and even reprised the role in the movie's 1988 sequel. The role involved him sitting through multiple rounds of makeup to appear "Indian," as well as changing his voice to sound more ethnic.
Speaking to Yahoo Entertainment in a recent interview while promoting his Apple TV+ drama Palmer, Fisher admitted the Short Circuit role "definitely haunts me. I still think it's a really good movie, but I would never do that part again."
Fisher had previously made comments addressing his problematic involvement in a 2015 New York Times interview with Aziz Ansari, where the Master of None star wrote a personal essay detailing his meeting with the actor he had grown up watching on screen — without knowing for years that his Indian role model wasn't actually Indian.
As Ansari explains in the essay, Fisher was told his role was originally a white grad student and was changed by the director and co-writer John Badham to be an Indian character. Asked if he could "play Indian," Fisher said yes and immersed himself in doing the work to play the role as more than a stereotype, which included reading Indian books, studying with a dialect coach, and living in India for a month before shooting the sequel.
"Toward the end of the conversation, it seemed to fully hit him how insensitive his casting may have been, and he said several times that he believed the role should have been played by an Indian and that he would never take it today," Ansari wrote in the piece.
Fisher's comments come at a time where Hollywood is making an effort to focus on casting diverse and authentic voices — even if that means actors giving up roles they've played for years. Simpsons star Hank Azaria has made several apologies for taking on the voice role of Indian convenience store owner and Jenny Slate made the decision to give up her role of half-Jewish and half-Black Missy in Big Mouth.