White actresses call for animated shows to hire Black actors to play Black characters.
Amid the ongoing Black Lives Matter conversation, actresses Kristen Bell and Jenny Slate announced Wednesday they will no longer voice mixed-race characters on animated series, so those roles can be given to Black actors.
Jenny Slate first created the shift when she announced she would stop voicing Missy Foreman-Greenwald, the character she’s played on Netflix’s ‘Big Mouth’ since the show debuted on Netflix in 2017.
The actress said she previously told her self that she was allowed to play the character because her mother was Jewish and white, just like her own mother. She realized that Black characters should be played by Black actors.
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“I acknowledge how my original reasoning was flawed,” Slate said, “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.”
She apologized to anyone she’d hurt and promised to take better actions in the future.
Nick Kroll, one of the show’s creator said, “We wholeheartedly agree.” Kroll apologized for the show’s decision to cast a white actor in the role and promised to do better for the show’s character.
“We are proud of the representation 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 Black actor to play her,” he said.
Netflix renewed the series in July and the show was renewing, which aired its third season last year, through the sixth season.
Jenny Slate is not alone. Bell plays Molly on Apple TV+’s new series ‘Central Park’. In a statement from the show, she said the “entire creative team recognizes that the casting of Molly is an opportunity to get representation right — to cast a Black or mixed race actress and give Molly a voice that resonates with all of the nuance and experiences of the character as we’ve drawn her.” They added Bell would continue to be part of the show.
Bell released her own statement saying she showed a “lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege” and considered the casting “wrong”.
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This is a time to acknowledge our acts of complicity. Here is one of mine. Playing the character of Molly on Central Park shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege. Casting a mixed race character with a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race and Black American experience. It was wrong and we, on the Central Park team, are pledging to make it right. I am happy to relinquish this role to someone who can give a much more accurate portrayal and I will commit to learning, growing and doing my part for equality and inclusion.
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