Citing her “white privilege” for obtaining the role in the first place, actress Jenny Slate announced Wednesday that she will be stepping down from her voiceover gig as a mixed-race animated cartoon character on Netflix’s “Big Mouth,” maintaining that “Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people.”
According to a statement posted by Nick Kroll, one of the creators of “Big Mouth,” Slate’s decision came after a “thoughtful discussion with our Black collaborators.” Kroll and co-creators Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett “wholeheartedly agree” with the move, the statement said.
In a statement posted to social media, Slate said she reasoned that she could take the role of “Missy” at the start since she’s Jewish and the character’s mother is also Jewish. She now feels differently.
“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,” she wrote. “But ‘Missy’ is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people.”
Slate contended that “ending” her “portrayal of ‘Missy’ is one step in a life-long process of uncovering the racism in my actions.”
“I acknowledge how my original reasoning was flawed,” the 38-year-old wrote, “and that it existed as an example of my white privilege and unjust allowances made within a system of societal white supremacy.”
“I am so very sorry,” the actress added. “Black voices must be heard. Black Lives Matter.”
Though the “woke” were generally pleased with Slate’s move, some felt it was not enough. One of the top comments on Slate’s statement posted to Instagram, for example, pressures the actress to give up the money she gained from “Big Mouth.”
“Hi Jenny, been a big fan of yours (but not necessarily Big Mouth),” the comment begins. “I think it’s good you resigned but feel it’s also important to point out that you have financially benefitted from playing this character. [H]ow do you plan to redistribute the money you’ve made playing Missy to organizations helping Black entertainers and artists in the industry? [I]n what ways do you intend to help directly address this problem in the industry?”
In a statement from Kroll, Levin, and Flackett, the creators offered apologies for initially casting Slate as “Missy.”
“We sincerely apologize for and regret our original decision to cast a white actor to voice a biracial character,” the statement reads. “We made a mistake, took our privilege for granted, and we’re working hard to do better moving forward,” adding that they “are proud of the representation Missy has offered cerebral, sensitive women of color, and we plan to continue that representation.”
— nick kroll (@nickkroll) June 24, 2020