Jenny Slate leaves Big Mouth, says Black characters 'should be played by Black people'
The actress announced on Wednesday that she had decided to leave behind her role as the biracial Missy on the Netflix animated sitcom because, as she explained, "Black characters in animated shows should be played by Black people."
"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," Slate shared on Instagram. "But 'Missy' is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people. I acknowledge how my original reasoning was flawed, 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. Ending my portrayal of "Missy' is one step in a life-long process of uncovering the racism in my actions."
In apologizing further, Slate noted that she has "made mistakes" along the way in finding her voice in comedy, and that she 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 plays Missy in the already-wrapped season 4, which premieres this fall, and the producers are currently searching for a new voice actress. The show's four creators — Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett — released a statement in which they supported Slate's decision and thanked for her contributions. "We sincerely apologize for and regret our original decision to cast a white actor to voice a biracial character," they said. "We made a mistake, took our privilege for granted, and 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 to play her."
Debuting in 2017, Big Mouth follows the exploits of a group of seventh graders (and their hormones) battling puberty. Ahead of the release of season 3 last year, Netflix renewed the show through season 6. The voice cast also includes Kroll, John Mulaney, Jessi Klein, Jordan Peele, Maya Rudolph, Fred Armisen, and Jason Mantzoukas.
Slate also is a cast member of the upcoming Fox animated comedy The Great North.