Jenny Slate has played Missy, a young Black girl (and the love interest of protagonist Andrew) on Big Mouth since Season 1 of the hit Netflix animated show, but that’s set to change. The actor has announced that after the upcoming Season 4, she will no longer voice the character, and that the part will be recast by a Black actor.
In a statement on Instagram, Slate admits that while she was initially able to justify the casting to herself, she has since come to understand that she is taking a role that should have been given to a Black actor. “At the start of the show, I reasoned with myself that it was permissable for me to play Missy because her mom is Jewish and White–as am I,” the actor wrote. “But Missy is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people.”
Slate goes on to acknowledge that by taking role, she was “engaging in an act of erasure of Black people,” and that stepping away from the role “is one step in a life-long process of uncovering the racism in my actions.”
“To anyone that I’ve hurt: I am so very sorry,” the post concludes. “Black voices must be heard. Black Lives Matter.”
Co-creator and actor Nick Kroll also posted a statement to Twitter about the decision, cosigned by fellow creators Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett.
They state that they “wholeheartedly agree” with Slate’s decision, stating “We sincerely apologize for and regret our original decision to cast a white actor to voice a biracial character.”
“We made a mistake, took our privilege for granted, and we’re working hard to do better moving forward.”
Slate’s decision comes as part of a wider discussion about casting in adult animation. On June 24, Bojack Horseman creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg posted a long Twitter thread about the decision to cast Alison Brie, a white actor, as Diane, a Vietnamese-American character, on his show. “We should have hired a Vietnamese writer, and a Vietnamese actress to play Diane – or if not that, changed the character to match who we did hire,” he wrote.
Recently, long time Simpsons voice actor Hank Azaria revealed that he will no longer play Apu on the show. “Once I realized that that was the way this character was thought of, I just didn’t want to participate in it anymore,” he said.
Variety is reporting that Season 4 of Big Mouth has already finished production, so Missy will be recast as of Season 5. A release date for the upcoming season has not yet been announced.
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