Big Mouth's Jenny Slate Shares Her 'Original Reasoning' For Playing A Biracial Character

big mouth missy jenny slate netflix
(Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix's Big Mouth has already been renewed for three more seasons, but the show will move forward without one of its original voice actors. Jenny Slate, who voiced Missy Foreman-Greenwald for the first three seasons of the adult animated comedy, decided to leave the show. Her character is biracial, while Slate herself is not, and Slate decided that the role should go to another actress.

Jenny Slate was already three seasons into playing Missy on Big Mouth, and she shared her "original reasoning" for taking the biracial role in an Instagram post:

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. 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 my 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.

According to Jenny Slate, she justified playing the biracial Missy by focusing on the fact that Missy's mother is Jewish and white, like Slate herself, but she has come to realize that "Black characters on an animated show should be played by black people." Her decision to leave her character behind came on the same day that Kristen Bell made a similar move for her Apple TV+ animated series.

Jenny Slate went on to acknowledge that she can't "change the past," but she will take accountability for her decisions and engage in "meaningful anti-racist action." She capped her statement off by saying that she is "so very sorry," and Black Lives Matter. At the time of writing, her post has gained more than 116,000 'likes' on Instagram.

Good news for Big Mouth fans is that Missy isn't going to be removed from the show due to Jenny Slate's departure, but rather recast. The show creators confirmed the plan to recast and commented on Slate's announcement about leaving in a joint statement, shared by Nick Kroll:

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. 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. We're proud of the representation that Missy has offered cerebral, sensitive women of color, and we plan to continue that representation and further grow Missy's character as we recast a new Black actor to play her.

The statement from Big Mouth creators Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett (via Nick Kroll on Twitter) went on to thank Jenny Slate for her decision and her contributions, and they "look forward" to further exploration of Missy's story with "greater authenticity" in the years to come. Considering Netflix handed down a hefty renewal order of three more seasons, there certainly are many more years to come by TV standards.

Big Mouth debuted back in 2017, then aired one new season each year through the third in 2019. Season 4 doesn't have a release date at this point, although it's possible that a delay is in store due to production shutdowns in recent months. The first three season (except for a Valentine's Day special in February 2019) debuted in either late September or early October.

For now, you can catch the first three seasons of Big Mouth (featuring Jenny Slate before the role is recast) streaming on Netflix, along with plenty of other options. Slate also has a stand-up special available on the streamer, called Jenny Slate: Stage Fright.

For some non-streaming series now and in the not-too-distant future, check out our 2020 summer premiere schedule!

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).