Kristen Bell, Jenny Slate Show That Black Lives Matter By Stepping Down From Voicing Their Black TV Characters

Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell both announced that they will no longer voice their characters on “Big Mouth” and “Central Park” because they believe Black or mixed-race actors should play those parts. Slate plays biracial Missy on Netflix’s “Big Mouth,” and Bell plays biracial Molly on Apple TV’s “Central Park.”

Slate released a statement on Instagram explaining that she no longer felt comfortable voicing the character of Missy.

“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,” wrote Slate.

“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.”

A statement from the creators of “Central Park” also said that Bell and the show’s creative team decided that “after reflection…the casting of the character 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.”

Kristen Bell also wrote on her Instagram that “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.”

Slate’s and Bell’s decisions come in the middle of social justice activism in America as millions protest the police killing of George Floyd and violence against Black people. As the entertainment industry thinks more critically about their role in creating racial inequality, actors are also rethinking their participation in projects that erase Black voices.

Patricia Grisafi

Written by Patricia Grisafi