Kristen Bell and Jenny Slate Have Resigned From Voicing Black TV Characters
Bell voiced Molly on 'Central Park', and Slate was Missy on 'Big Mouth.'
Yesterday, June 24th, actresses Kristen Bell and Jenny Slate both resigned from their roles in their respective animated series, Central Park and Big Mouth. Both Bell and Slate released statements apologizing for lending their voices to Black characters.
“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 in a text post on Instagram. “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 I am. But 'Missy' is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people.”
Slate recognizes that her initial reasoning was flawed and that it’s yet another example of white privilege, adding that is willing to take accountability for her prior ignorance and engage in anti-racist action from here on out.
“Ending my portrayal of 'Missy' is one step in a life-long process of uncovering the racism in my actions,” Slate wrote.
Big Mouth creators Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett also released a statement on Twitter in which they apologized for lending a hand in Black erasure by casting Slate as Missy.
The creators continued, “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.”
Later that day, Bell released a text post regarding her resignation from Apple TV+’s animated series Central Park, in which she voices Molly, another mixed-race character.
“We profoundly regret that we might have contributed to anyone’s feeling of exclusion or erasure,” the creators stated, vowing to make more opportunities for people of color and Black people “in all roles, on all our projects.”
And although some argued that Slate and Bell’s casting isn’t an issue because the characters they voice are half white, Bell shut that down by pointing to how a Black or mixed-race actor will always be able to tell the character's story better.
Though the casting shouldn't have happened in the first place, by taking accountability and clearing the way for people of color to step into their former roles, Slate and Bell are setting an important example for their Hollywood cohorts who work onscreen and off. If a person of color is a better fit for the role, writing position, director’s chair, etc., then step aside and let positive change take hold.