It’s the dawn of a new day and allies are taking notice and initiative to be mindful of their privilege and make sure Black voices are heard, especially when they belong to Black and biracial characters.
Comedienne Jenny Slate took to Instagram on Wednesday to reveal she’s decided to step down from her role as Missy on “Big Mouth” because she feels the character, who is biracial, should be voiced by a black actress.
Her post reads:
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. But “Missy” is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people. 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. Ending my portrayal of “Missy” is one step in a life-long process of uncovering the racism in my actions.
As I look 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. Most importantly, though, to anyone that I’ve hurt: I am so very sorry. Black voices must be heard. Black Lives Matter.
According to TV Guide, the creators of Big Mouth — Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett — also posted on Kroll’s instagram in support of Slate’s decision to step down and to apologize to their fans:
“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,” they wrote. “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.”
We applaud her decision, particularly because we’re pretty sure no one was even calling for it BUT we agree that a Black actress could definitely use the work.
We noticed our girl Megalyn Echikunwoke lobbying for the role of Missy on Nick Kroll’s page. We love her and hope she is considered.
Slate isn’t the only actress making such decisions. According to Vulture, the same day the change at “Big Mouth” was announced, creators of Apple TV’s show “Central Park” Loren Bouchard, Josh Gad, Nora Smith, Halsted Sullivan and Sanjay Shah released a statement saying Kristen Bell will no longer be playing the character Molly on that show:
“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.
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 or erasure.
Black people and people of color have worked and will continue to work on Central Park but we can do better. We’re committed to creating opportunities for people of color 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.”
Bell reposted the statement to her Instagram, along with the caption:
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. It was wrong and we, on the Central Park team, are pledging to make it right. I am happy to relinquish this 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.
Gotta love it.
‘Central Park’ creator Loren Bouchard had previously defending giving Bell the role at the TCA’s in January.
But oh the times they do change. Hallelujah.