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Kristen Bell, Jenny Slate Will No Longer Voice Animated Black Characters

Jenny Slate Kristen Bell

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images, Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Citing their privilege and a lack of representation within Hollywood, Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell, who both play Black characters in animated comedy series, will no longer provide the voices for those roles.

Slate announced on Instagram on Wednesday that she will no longer voice Big Mouth’s Missy, who is Black, apologizing for “engaging in an act of erasure of Black people”:

 

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“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 in an Instagram post.

Slater pledged to be more aware of the messages in her work and acknowledged that stepping down as Missy is simply step-one in “uncovering the racism” in her actions.

“I am so very sorry. Black voices must be heard. Black Lives Matter,” she added.

Big Mouth’s Nick Kroll also posted a statement on his Instagram about the decision, which was signed by Kroll and his co-creators Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett:

 

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Big Mouth was renewed for three more seasons this year, and production on the fourth season has already ended, meaning the show will replace Slate for season five.

Acknowledging her “complicity and her “pervasive privilege,” Bell will also step down as Black character Molly in animated series Central Park.

“Casting a mixed race character with a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race and Black American experience,” she wrote in an Instagram caption along with a picture of the statement from Central Park creators Loren Bouchard, Josh Gad, Nora Smith, Halsted Sullivan, and Sanjay Shah:

“It was wrong and we, on the Central Park team, are pledging to make it right,” her caption continued. “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.”

Although the Apple+ series has now committed to casting Black actors in Black roles, the team defended the decision to cast Bell in January.

“Kristen needed to be Molly, like we couldn’t not make her Molly,” Bouchard said. “But then we couldn’t make Molly white and we couldn’t make Kristen mixed race, so we just had to go forward.”

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