Kristen Bell and Jenny Slate are stepping down from their respective animated TV gigs on Apple TV+‘s Central Park and Netflix‘s Big Mouth.
Both actresses, who are white, shared their announcements on Wednesday, explaining it’s inappropriate for them to voice biracial cartoon characters and would like their roles to be filled by Black or mixed-race actors moving forward.
It’s actually rather unfortunate these casting decisions were made in the first place, but alas, things are finally changing! In a statement shared via Instagram, Slate explained why she “can no longer” bring Missy, a young Black girl on Nick Kroll‘s animated series about puberty, to life.
“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.”
She went on to say her initial reasoning was “flawed” and a prime example of how one benefits from “societal white supremacy,” adding:
“In me playing ‘Missy,’ I was engaging in an act of erasure of Black people. Ending my portrayal of ‘Missy’ is one step in a life-long process of uncovering the racism in my actions.”
The 38-year-old said that while she “can’t change the past” in regards to her comedy career, she is deeply apologetic for her “mistakes” and pledged to support the Black Lives Matter movement in every capacity:
“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.”
It’s highly likely that viewers will hear Slate’s voice on season 4 of Big Mouth, which already wrapped production before she stepped down and is set to premiere on the streaming service this Fall. However, series creator Nick Kroll also spoke out and said he agreed with the actress’ decision:
“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. We sincerely apologize 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.”
In his full statement shared on Twitter, Kroll shared that fellow creators Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett were all in agreement and will recast a new Black actor to play Missy:
— nick kroll (@nickkroll) June 24, 2020
As for Kristen, she voiced the role of Molly Tillerman, a Black biracial girl who lives in New York’s Central Park with her family. Creator Josh Gad acknowledged where this casting missed the mark in his own statement shared to IG:
“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. 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.”
He added the Frozen star will continue to be a part of the show in a different capacity, but important roles on-screen and off-screen will be appropriately prioritized for people of color:
“Black people and people of color have worked and will continue to work on Central Park but we can do better. We’re committed to creating opportunities for people of color and Black people in all roles, on all our projects — behind the mic, in the writers room, in production, and in post-production. Animation will be stronger for having as many voices, experiences, and perspectives as we can possibly bring into the industry.”
Bell also reposted the exact statement to her feed, expressing deep regret for her “complicity” in the system:
“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.”
Now, this is how you “read the room” in our current social climate.
Perezcious TV addicts, will U still be watching either of these shows with the new changes?? Sound OFF with your thoughts on all of this (below) in the comments section.
[Image via WENN/Instar/Netflix/Apple TV+/YouTube]