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Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell step down from mixed-race voice roles

Staff Writer

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Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell have both stepped down from voicing mixed-race characters in streaming animations to make way for other actors.

Jenny Slate has voiced Missy in Netflix’s Big Mouth, an adult animated series about the hormonal pains of growing up. A smash hit, it has been renewed up to its sixth season, with Season 4 to premiere this autumn. Now, though, Slate and Big Mouth’s creators have announced that she will not reprise the role from Season 5 onwards, with the intent of casting a Black actor to voice Missy instead.

“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,” said Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett, the show’s creators, in a statement. “We sincerely apologise 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 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.”

“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 added in her own statement. “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… I can’t change the past, but I can take accountability for my choices.”

Kristen Bell has made a similar decision about her role in Apple TV+ animation Central Park. The show, which hails from Bob’s Burgers creator Loren Bouchard and co-creators Nora Smith and Josh Gad, premiered this spring and has already been renewed for a second season.

Bell plays Molly, the young girl in the family ensemble, and will also step down for the role to be recast with a Black or mixed-race actor. While Season 2 has already been recorded and is being animated, the plan is to recast the role and record the new voice actor for Season 2.

“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,” Bouchard, Smith, Gad and Halsted Sullivan and Sanjay Shah, said 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 instead take the voice part of a new character.

“This is a time to acknowledge our acts of complicity. Here is one of mine,” she said in a statement. “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.”

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