Jenny Slate (Parks and Rec, Zootopia) and Kristen Bell (Frozen, Veronica Mars) will be replaced with voice actors of color in the Netflix’s animated series Big Mouth (created by Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Jennifer Flackett, and Mark Levin) and Apple TV”s animated series Central Park (created by Josh Gad and Loren Bouchard), respectively, per The Hollywood Reporter. Big Mouth premiered on Netflix on September 29th, 2017 and Central Park premiered on Apple TV+ on May 29th, 2020.
In Netflix’s Big Mouth, Jenny Slate voices Missy, a biracial middle school girl who excels in her studies. She is half Jewish and half black, but appears and identifies as black. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and Hollywood’s concerns that it is unfairly overlooking black actors in favor of white ones, Jenny Slate has requested that she be replaced by a black actress. In a statement posted on Instagram (full statement shown below), “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.”
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Although Slate has not been called out for her voicing of a black character, she says, “to anyone that I’ve hurt: I’m sorry,” referencing the opportunities that she may have taken away from black actors. She ends the post with a simple, “Black Lives Matter.”
A similar event occurred with the casting of Central Park. Although Kristen Bell was involved from the ground floor, the show’s creative team – Loren Bouchard (writer, Bob’s Burgers), Josh Gad (Frozen, Beauty and the Beast), Nora Smith (producer, Bob’s Burgers), Halsted Sullivan (producer, The Office), and Sanjay Shah (producer, Fresh Off the Boat) – has decided that Bell may not be the best choice for the role of Molly, a young biracial girl. In a statement, the creative team said, “Kristen, along with the entire creative team, recognizes that 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” (The Hollywood Reporter). Kristen Bell will still play a character on Central Park, but the show’s creative team has not said which character. Fans of the show can now look forward to a new cast member in the coming seasons of Central Park.