Amid the ongoing national conversation about race, actresses Kristen Bell and Jenny Slate both announced Wednesday that they’d no longer voice mixed-race characters on animated series, so that the roles can be recast with Black actors.
Bell, who plays Molly on Apple TV+’s new Central Park, shared a statement from the show, which debuted in May. It praised Bell’s performance, but it said the “entire creative team recognizes that the casting 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.” It said Bell would continue to be part of the show.
Bell added her own statement in the caption, in which she said playing Molly showed a “lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege.” She deemed the casting “wrong.”
Just hours earlier, Slate said she would stop voicing Missy Foreman-Greenwald, the character she’s played on Big Mouth since that show debuted on Netflix in 2017.
The Saturday Night Live alum said she had previously convinced herself that she was allowed to play a character whose mother was Jewish and white, just like her own. She’s since realized that Black characters should be played by Black people.
“I acknowledge how my original reasoning was flawed,” Slate said, “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.”
She said she was “so very sorry” to anyone she’d hurt and vowed to take anti-racist actions.
At the same time, comedian Nick Kroll, one of the show’s creators, said, “We wholeheartedly agree.”
Kroll apologized for the show’s choice to initially cast a white actor in the role, and he promised to do more with the character.
“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 recast a Black actor to play her,” he said.
In September, Big Mouth was one of five series to compete for the Best Animated Program award at the Emmys, though it was beat by The Simpsons. Netflix announced in July that it was renewing the show, which aired its third season last year, through a sixth season.
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