Jenny Slate has announced she is exiting Netflix’s animated series “Big Mouth” to make room for a person of color to voice her black character.
The actress, 38, posted a lengthy note about her “meaningful anti-racist action” on Instagram and noted that by portraying her biracial character Missy Foreman-Greenwald for the past three seasons, she was “engaging in an act of erasure of Black people.”
“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 wrote on Instagram. “But ‘Missy’ is also Black and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people.”
“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,” Slate continued. “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 part of the problem. Most importantly, though, to anyone I’ve hurt: I am so very sorry. Black voices must be heard. Black Lives Matter.”
“Big Mouth” co-creators Nick Kroll, Mark Levin, Andrew Goldberg and Jennifer Flackett chimed in with a statement supporting Slate’s exit from the show. “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,” they wrote. “We made a mistake, took our privilege for granted and we’re working hard to do better moving forward. We are proud of the representation that Missy has offered cerebral, sensitive women of color, and we plan to continue that representation and further grow Missy’s character as we recast a new Black actor to play her. We thank Jenny for her decision and for creating with us an inspiring, compassionate, and very human character.”
Fans first called out Slate’s casting as a black character before the show premiered in September 2017.
“Why is Jenny Slate voicing a black character in #BigMouth?” one Twitter user wrote in 2017. “is…..Jenny Slate voicing a black character on this new @netflix show, Big Mouth? in a cast that includes Maya Rudolph? plz say it ain’t so,” another added a few days later.
As IndieWire pointed out, the decision to cast Slate as a character of color has been criticized “as cartoon whitewashing,” along with Alison Brie, who voices a Vietnamese-American character on “BoJack Horseman.”
Netflix renewed “Big Mouth” for three more seasons, according to Variety, although Season 4 doesn’t have a premiere date yet.
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