Kristen Bell and Jenny Slate announced they will no longer voice their characters on “Central Park” and “Big Mouth” respectively because they believe Black or mixed-race actors should have the roles.
Bell plays the biracial character Molly on Apple TV’s “Central Park.” A statement from the show’s creators said that “after reflection,” Bell and the show’s creative team recognize “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 statement also expressed regret for contributing to “anyone’s feeling of exclusion or erasure.”
“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,” the statement said.
Bell will receive a new role on the show.
The news comes on the heels of Jenny Slate saying on Instagram that she could no longer voice her character on Netflix’s “Big Mouth.”
“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.”
Slate added that in her comedic career, she’s “made mistakes along the way,” but said she “will continue to engage in meaningful anti-racist action, be thoughtful about the messages in my work, be open and curious to feedback, and do my best to take responsibilities for the ways that I am part of of the problem.”
The creators of “Big Mouth” also posted an open letter on Instagram to back Slate’s withdrawal from the role and apologized for casting a white actor in a biracial role.
“After thoughtful discussion with us and our Black collaborators, Jenny Slate has decided, and we wholeheartedly agree, that Missy on Big Mouth should be voiced by a Black actor,” the creators said. “We sincerely apologize for and regret our original decision to cast a white actor to voice a biracial character. We made a mistake, took our privilege for granted, and we’re working hard to do better moving forward.”
The moves come amid a nationwide reckoning with racial inequality in America.
After the police killing of George Floyd, protests erupted around the country in an effort to address racial inequality and stop brutality against Black people. The protests have sparked conversations nationwide around systemic racism and racial bias, and have prompted many businesses to review their policies and hiring procedures.