‘Big Mouth,’ ‘Central Park’ to recast Jenny Slate’s and Kristen Bell’s biracial characters
Los Angeles – Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell will no longer voice biracial characters in the animated shows “Big Mouth” and “Central Park,” respectively.
In a statement posted to Instagram Wednesday, Slate explained that she had stepped down from the role of Missy on Netflix’s “Big Mouth” because her original reasoning for signing on to voice the character was “flawed” and “an example of white privilege.”
“At the start of the show, I reasoned with myself that it was permissible to play ‘Missy’ because her mom is Jewish and White – as am I,” Slate wrote. “But ‘Missy’ is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people.”
She apologized for “engaging in an act of erasure of Black people.”
“Big Mouth” creators Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett issued a statement supporting Slate’s decision and said they would recast the role with 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 are proud of the representation Missy has offered cerebral, sensitive women of color, and we plan to continue that representation and further grow Missy’s character as we cast a new Black actor to play her.”
Bell also announced Wednesday that she would be stepping away from the role of Molly in “Central Park” on Apple TV+.
“Playing the character of Molly on ‘Central Park’ shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege,” Bell wrote in an Instagram post. “Casting a mixed race character with a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race and Black American experience.”
“Central Park” creator Loren Bouchard, who previously defended casting Bell in the role, apologized on Twitter for “getting this decision wrong originally.”
In a joint statement, the “Central Park” team announced its plans to cast a Black or mixed race actress to “give Molly a voice that resonates with all of the nuance and experiences of the character as we’ve drawn her.”
Questions about white actors voicing animated characters of color are not new. Earlier this year, “The Simpsons” actor Hank Azaria announced he would no longer voice the character Apu after years of criticism levied against the long-running show and its stereotypical depiction of the immigrant Indian character.