The recent increased visibility of the Black Lives Matter movement is having a profound impact across Hollywood. From showrunners rethinking the portrayal of police officers to comedians condemning the all-too-recent use of blackface in sketches, many aspects once considered "normal" in the industry are being reexamined. Now, Jenny Slate is one of the latest in the field to publicly apologize for being "part of the problem." On June 24, Jenny Slate left Big Mouth, acknowledging that her former role of Missy should be taken over by a Black actor.
Big Mouth, an animated comedy on Netflix, has been running since 2017. The popular series, now headed into its fourth season, features seventh graders who are navigating puberty and middle school. Slate voiced Missy Foreman-Greenwald, a bookish girl who is struck by hormone monsters. (Connie the Hormone Monstress, voiced by Maya Rudolph, has been known to follow her around.) There's just one thing: Missy is Black, and Slate is white.
Going forward, Slate will no longer voice Missy. In a statement posted on Instagram, the actor said she'd originally believed she could play Missy because Missy's mom is Jewish and white (just like Slate), even though Missy is also Black. But Slate acknowledged that reasoning was "flawed," and the product of "unjust allowances made within a system of societal white supremacy," and she apologized.
Comedian and Big Mouth co-creator Nick Kroll released a statement on Twitter on behalf of all of the show's creators (Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett) that expressed support for Slate's decision, apologized for giving the role to a white person in the first place, and vowed to recast Missy with a Black voice actor going forward.
According to Variety, production on Big Mouth Season 4 has already wrapped, with Slate voicing Missy. So, it is likely the new casting will be in place for Season 5 and beyond. (The show is currently greenlit through six seasons.)
Within hours of Slate's post, Kristen Bell, who voiced Molly, a Black character on Apple TV+'s Central Park, released a statement saying she also stepped away from her role.
In a comment along with her Instagram statement, Bell wrote, in part:
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.
According to the statement, Bell will instead play a new character on Central Park, and the role of Molly will be recast with a Black actor. It's unclear if Slate will be given a new main role to play on Big Mouth; she currently voices other minor characters, including secretary Taffiny and the Contraceptive Implant.