A major cast change is coming when Big Mouth returns to Netflix for its fourth season. On Wednesday, June 24, Jenny Slate, who has voiced Missy Foreman-Greenwald for three seasons, announced she is leaving the popular animated series. Here’s why and what to expect moving forward.
Jenny Slate reveals why she is leaving ‘Big Mouth’ ahead of season 4
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In an Instagram post published on June 24, Slate revealed she is leaving Big Mouth after recognizing Missy — a biracial character — should be voiced by a Black actor.
“I have come to the decision today that I can no longer play the character of ‘Missy’ on the animated TV show Big Mouth,” Slate wrote. “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. But ‘Missy’ is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people.”
Slate then admitted her previous views were “flawed” and served as an example of her white privilege. She also stated her portrayal of Missy meant she was actively “engaging in an act of erasure of 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, adding she wants to take accountability and take action.
“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,” Slate wrote. “Most importantly, though, to anyone that I’ve hurt: I am so very sorry. Black voices must be heard. Black Lives Matter.”
‘Big Mouth’ will cast a Black actor to replace Jenny Slate in season 4
Following Slate’s statement on Instagram, the creators of Big Mouth — Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett — promised Missy will be voiced by a Black actor.
“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,” the statement said.
The creators then apologized for casting a white actor as a biracial character, acknowledging it was a mistake and they took their “privilege for granted.” The statement continued:
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. We look forward to being able to explore Missy’s story with even greater authenticity in the years to come.
Kristen Bell steps down from ‘Central Park’ as Molly
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This is a time to acknowledge our acts of complicity. Here is one of mine. 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.
As you may know, Slate has been criticized for voicing Missy on Big Mouth for years. It’s also not the first time an animated series has been called out for casting white actors as people of color. Alison Brie voiced Diane Nguyen on BoJack Horseman, Hank Azaria played Apu on The Simpsons, and Kristen Bell portrayed Molly on Central Park. But it seems Slate’s exit has sparked some change within the industry.
A few hours after Slate made her announcement, Bell stepped down from voicing Molly on Central Park. The show’s team said in a statement:
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 continue to be a part of the heart of the show in a new role. But we will find a new actress to lend her voice to Molly.
It’s clear Hollywood is working on better representation. But can they keep the momentum going? We’ll see.
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