In a surprising yet necessary move, yesterday it was announced that Jenny Slate would be exiting the Netflix series Big Mouth, with news of Kristen Bell’s exit from her role o the Apple TV+ musical series Central Park following shortly thereafter. Both white actresses voiced non-white characters in these animated series, and they themselves and the powers that be decided that, well, this was probably not a great idea.
On Big Mouth, Slate voiced Missy Foreman-Greenwald, a young nerdy and extremely kind mixed race girl struggling through adolescences alongside the rest of the characters. In a statement released by creators Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett yesterday, it was announced that Slate had decided (and they agreed) that Missy should be voiced by a non-white actor. “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.” The show will be recasting a Black actor to play Missy going forward, as the Netflix series was recently renewed for three additional seasons. “We look forward to being able to explore Missy’s story with even greater authenticity in the years to come,” the statement concludes.
As for Central Park, that new Apple TV+ animated series debuted just a couple of months ago and featured Bell voicing one of the lead roles of Molly Tillerman, the daughter of Central Park’s manager (voiced by Leslie Odom Jr.) and a reporter (Kathryn Hahn). The show was designed to be a full-on musical with Broadway-caliber songs and stars, and there’s no denying Bell’s tremendous vocal talent. But casting her as a mixed-race child was wrong.
Bell tweeted out a statement by the show’s creative team yesterday, taking full responsibility by adding her own thoughts: “Playing Molly in Central Park shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege. Casting a mixed race character w/ a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race & Black American experience.” The creative team added in their statement that the Frozen actress will continue to be a part of the show in a new role, but that they’ll find a new actress to lend her voice to Molly. “We profoundly regret that we might have contributed to anyone’s feeling of exclusion or erasure,” the statement reads. “Black people and people of color have worked and will continue to work on Central Park, but we can do better. We’re committed to creating opportunities for people of color and Black people in all roles, on all our projects—behind the mic, in the writers room, in production, and in post-production.”
You can read both statements in full below.
— nick kroll (@nickkroll) June 24, 2020
This is a time to acknowledge our acts of complicity. Heres 1 of mine. Playing the Molly in Central Park shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege. Casting a mixed race character w/a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race & Black American experience. pic.twitter.com/8AL8m4K7Uk
— Kristen Bell (@KristenBell) June 25, 2020