Jenny Slate leaves 'Big Mouth,' says Black characters 'should be played by Black people'

Jenny Slate is leaving her role as Missy on the Netflix animated show Big Mouth due to the character being biracial and the actor being white.

Slate announced the news on Wednesday, saying: “I have come to the decision today that I can no longer play the character of ‘Missy’ on the animated TV show Big Mouth.

“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,” Slate continued. “But ‘Missy’ is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people.

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“I acknowledge how my original reasoning was flawed, that it existed as an example of white privilege and unjust allowances made within a system of societal white supremacy, and that in me playing ‘Missy,’ I was engaging in an act of erasure of Black people,” Slate added. “Ending my portrayal of ‘Missy’ is one step in a lifelong process of uncovering the racism in my actions.”

Slate said that as she looks back “on the nature and emergence of my own voice in comedy, I know that I have made mistakes along the way.”

“I can’t change the past, but I can take accountability for my choices. 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 wrote.

“Most importantly, though, to anyone that I’ve hurt: I am so very sorry. Black voices must be heard. Black Lives Matter,” Slate concluded her post.

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Slate plays Missy in Season 4, which already wrapped and premieres this fall, and the producers are currently searching for a new voice actor for the part of Missy.

The show’s creators, Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett, released a statement on Twitter on Wednesday, saying: “After thoughtful discussion with us and our Black collaborators, Jenny Slate has decided, and we wholeheartedly agree, that Missy on Big Mouth should be voiced by a Black actor.

“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,” the statement added.

“We are proud of the representation that Missy has offered cerebral, sensitive women of colour, and we plan to continue that representation and further grow Missy’s character as we recast a new Black actor to play her.”

The creators said they “thank Jenny for her decision and for creating with us an inspiring, compassionate and very human character.

“We look forward to being able to explore Missy’s story with even greater authenticity in the years to come.”

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Following Slate’s exit from Big Mouth, it was announced that Kristen Bell would no longer be voicing Molly, a mixed-race character on Apple TV+’s animated series Central Park.

The show’s creators announced that Bell would take on a new role in the show and they are looking for a new voice actor to “lend her voice to Molly.”

“Kristen Bell is an extraordinarily talented actress who joined the cast of Central Park from nearly the first day of the show’s development — before there was even a character for her to play — and she has since delivered a funny, heartfelt and beautiful performance,” the show’s team wrote in a statement.

“But after reflection, Kristen, along with the entire creative team, recognizes that the casting of the character of Molly is an opportunity to get representation right — to cast a Black or mixed-race actress and give Molly a voice that resonates with all of the nuance and experiences of the character as we’ve drawn her. Kristen will continue to be a part of the heart of the show in a new role, but we will find a new actress to lend her voice to Molly.

“We profoundly regret that we might have contributed to anyone’s feeling of exclusion and erasure. Black people and people of colour have worked and will continue to work on Central Park but we can do better.”

Molly (voiced by Kristen Bell) and Hazel (voiced by Ester Dean) in 'Central Park,' now streaming on Apple TV+. (Credit: Apple TV)

Molly (voiced by Kristen Bell) and Hazel (voiced by Ester Dean) in 'Central Park,' now streaming on Apple TV+. (Credit: Apple TV)

“We’re committed to creating opportunities for people of colour and Black people in all roles, on all our projects — behind the mic, in the writers’ room, in production and in post-production. Animation will be stronger for having as many voices, experiences and perspectives as we can possibly bring into the industry. Our shop and our show will be better for respecting the nuances and complexity around the issue of representation and trying to get it right,” the creators’ statement concluded.

Bell added that this is “a time to acknowledge our acts of complicity.”

“Here is one of mine. Playing the character of Molly on Central Park shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege. Casting a mixed-race character with a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed-race and Black American experience,” Bell wrote.

“It was wrong, and we, on the Central Park team, are pledging to make it right. I am happy to relinquish the role to someone who can give a much more accurate portrayal and I will commit to learning, growing and doing my part for equality and inclusion,” she said.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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