America’s reckoning on race has come to TV animation, as stars Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell, who are white, have agreed to stop voicing characters who are biracial.
And while some fans may be disappointed to see their favorite performers leaving TV shows they enjoy, the moves also end a subtle way in which actors of color have been marginalized. It’s an attention-getting moment when performers have recognized their white privilege and moved to end it.
Slate, who plays the character Missy on Netflix’s animated comedy Big Mouth, wrote on Instagram Thursday. “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,” Slate wrote in a statement. “But Missy is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people … In my playing Missy, I was engaging in an act of erasure of Black people.”
Nick Kroll, comic and co-creator of the show, backed Slate’s decision in a statement from the series’ executive producers posted on his Instagram page. “We sincerely apologize for and regret our original decision to cast a white actor to voice a biracial character,” the statement reads. “We made a mistake, took our privilege for granted, and we’re working hard to do better moving forward.”