'Big Mouth': Jenny Slate to no longer voice biracial teen, fans ask Central Park's Kristen Bell to follow suit
“I reasoned with myself that it was permissible for me to play Missy because her mom is Jewish and white -- as am I. But Missy is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people," Slate wrote
Actor and comedian Jenny Slate of ‘Parks and Recreation’ and ‘House of Lies’ fame, took to Instagram on Wednesday, June 24, to announce that she was stepping away from her role as Missy in the Netflix animated comedy series ‘Big Mouth’.
The show created by Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett features a biracial character called Missy Foreman-Greenwald. From the beginning of the show in 2017, Slate voiced Missy. But in light of the recent national conversation around systemic racism following the death of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and other African-Americans, Slate, who is white, announced that it would be unconscionable for her to continue with the role.
“I have come to the decision today that I can no longer play the character of Missy on the animated TV show ‘Big Mouth’,” Slate announced in an Instagram post. “At the start of the show, I reasoned with myself that it was permissible for me to play Missy because her mom is Jewish and white -- as am I. But Missy is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people.”
Slate further said that holding the role of Missy for three seasons “existed as an example of white privilege and unjust allowances made within a system of societal white supremacy.”
“I will continue to engage in meaningful anti-racist action, to be thoughtful about the messages in my work, to be curious and open to feedback, and to do my best to take responsibility for the ways that I am a part of the problem,” she concluded. “Black voices must be heard. Black Lives Matter.”
Show creators Kroll, Goldberg, Levin, and Flackett too acknowledged the mistake of casting Slate for Missy’s role, as well as their own white privilege in doing so. In a Twitter post shared by Kroll, they wrote “We are proud of the representation Missy has offered cerebral, sensitive women of color, and we plan to continue that representation and further grow Missy's character as we cast a new Black actor to play her.”
As per The Hollywood Reporter, production on season 4 of ‘Big Mouth’ has already wrapped up. Slate has already voiced Missy for the season, which is all set air in the fall. The recasting, per The Hollywood Reporter, will take effect for the fifth season.
Slate’s announcement was well received by many on social media. Her Instagram was inundated with positive comments from across the board. One person commented, “This is amazing and a perfect example of how to be an ally!! I love Big Mouth but will definitely support your next project, Thank you.”
Another wrote, “This decision could not have been easy. Thank you for leading by example. Nathan Fillion and I will miss you forever.”
On Twitter, Kroll’s post too was positively received. One fan of the show wrote, “This is great, thank you. I hope this will help other cartoons to realize the significance of casting BIPOC.”
But it also came with some constructive criticism. One Twitter user wrote, “While this is nice, [but] when it comes to the realm of animation, I think the biggest problem is making sure you have writers of color in the writing room. IMO, the race of the actor becomes much more important if you are parodying a racial or cultural stereotype.”
Among the many reacting to the news, there was a significant number of people who also called out the Apple TV+ animated musical comedy ‘Central Park’ for casting Kristen Bell, a white actor, to voice Molly Tillerman, a biracial teenager. The creators of ‘Central Park’ have not responded to these criticisms as of yet.
"Now you next @KristenBell," wrote a Twitter user tagging show creator Josh Gad and Apple TV+ in the tweet as well. "Good, next up... @KristenBell in Central Park cc: @joshgad," wrote another user. "This is great! Now what about @KristenBell on the new #centralparktv show voicing the biracial character, Molly?" asked another.