One character on Nick Kroll’s Netflix animated series Big Mouth is getting a new voice. Comedian, actor, and author Jenny Slate posted an announcement to Instagram today, stating that she will no longer voice her Big Mouth character, Missy, who is Black. “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,” she wrote. “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.”
Slate’s post goes on to say that while she can’t fix the mistakes she’s made during her comedy career, “I can take accountability for my choices” and “take responsibility for the ways that I am part of the problem.” She ends the note with an apology: “Most importantly, though, to anyone that I’ve hurt: I am so very sorry. Black voices must be heard. Black Lives Matter.”
Kroll also posted an announcement on his Instagram about the decision, which was signed by Kroll alongside Big Mouth co-creators Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett. “After thoughtful discussion with us and our Black collaborators, Jenny Slate has decided, and we wholeheartedly agree, that Missy on Big Mouth should be voiced by a Black actor,” he wrote. Kroll apologized for the decision to cast a white actor for the role, saying that the show “made a mistake, took our privilege for granted, and we’re working hard to do better moving forward.” He said the show is “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.”
Big Mouth’s third season premiered on Netflix in October 2019, and it was renewed earlier in the year for three more seasons. Production on the fourth season has already wrapped, so the show will replace Slate with a new voice actor for Missy for season five.