Jenny Slate has announced her decision to step back from her voice role on the Netflix show, Big Mouth. In a statement on Instagram, Slate said that she made the decision because she believed she was “engaging in the erasure of black people.” Slate, who is white, had previously voiced the bi-racial character Missy on the show.
“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 wrote in her statement.
The comedian continued, saying that ending her portrayal of Missy was just one step in uncovering the racism of her actions. She wrote that she knew she had made mistakes in the past and is ready to take accountability for her choices. She concluded by offering an apology, saying that Black voices must be heard.
Slate’s statement came alongside a message from the show’s creators, Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett. In the statement, which was posted to Kroll’s Twitter page and can be found here, the creators said they agreed with Slate’s decision. They added that Missy should be voiced by a Black actor moving forward.
“We sincerely apologize for and regret our original decision to cast a white actor to voice a biracial character,” the statement continued.
The creators said that they had taken their privilege for granted and that they looked forward to growing Missy’s character as they hire a new Black actor to play her. They also said that they were proud of the representation Missy has provided for “cerebral, sensitive women of color.”
The creators ended their statement by thanking Slate for her decision, and saying that she had created a human character that they looked forward to portraying more authentically moving forward.
Through its first three seasons, Big Mouth has tackled adolescence from a variety of perspectives, highlighting issues of puberty and toxic masculinity. It has earned a reputation as an often explicit show that is largely unafraid of addressing sensitive topics related to every aspect of sexuality.
Prior to Slate’s announcement, there had not been a huge effort calling for her to step away from the role. There was some controversy over the voice casting on another Netflix show, Bojack Horseman, which can be seen here. The show cast Alison Brie, who is white, to voice a character of Vietnamese descent.