Actor and comedian Jenny Slate announced she will no longer voice the character of Missy, a young black girl on Netflix’s Big Mouth cartoon series, in a move to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
“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,” wrote Slate in an Instagram post Wednesday. “But ‘Missy’ is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people.”
Slate said that as a white woman playing a Black seventh-grader, she “was engaging in an act of erasure of Black people” as she tried to only focus on the character’s white history when justifying why she could play the role.
The Netflix cartoon, created by Nick Kroll, has aired three seasons since it first premiered in 2017. Another three series have already been ordered. Slate was part of an all-star cast that includes Maya Rudolph, Jordan Peele, John Mulaney, and Fred Armisen.
Slate has already recorded the show’s fourth season, which will air with her included later in the year. Netflix will then recast the role.
“I acknowledge how my original reasoning was flawed,” said Slate, “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.”
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The comedian’s decision to step aside from the role comes as Black Lives Matter protests have sparked across the globe, following the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.
While much of the protests have focused on police brutality and the killing of Black people, the social movement has also called on white people to examine their own racism and actively fight to be anti-racist, including giving up their own privileges and promoting Black people in their industries.
“Ending the portrayal of ‘Missy’ is one step in a life-long process of uncovering the racism in my actions,” wrote Slate.
“As I look back on the nature and emergences of my own voice in comedy, I know that I have made mistakes along the way,” wrote Slate. “I can’t change the past but I can take accountability for my choices. 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 a part of the problem.”
Also on Wednesday, the creative team behind the upcoming animated Apple series Central Park announced that Kristen Bell would be recast as the voice behind the mixed-race character Molly Tillerman.
“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,” the show’s team said in a statement. “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.”
They added that Bell will continue to be a part of the show in a new role.
Big Mouth and Central Park are the latest show to be affected by the Black Lives Matter movement. Both 30 Rock and Scrubs have had episodes that featured characters in blackface pulled from streaming services this week.