Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell have both resigned from their roles as Black cartoon characters. Each actress cited a growing awareness of their privilege for quitting so that the characters could have Black voices behind them instead.
Slate voiced Missy on the Netflix series, Big Mouth, while Bell portrayed Molly on the Apple TV+ show, Central Park.
“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,” Slate wrote in a statement she released Wednesday on her Instagram page.
“I acknowledge how my original reasoning was flawed,” continued Slate, “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.”
Slate added that as a comedian she’s “made mistakes along the way,” but “I can’t change the past, but I can take accountability for my choices. I will continue to engage in meaningful anti-racist action, to be thoughtful about the messages in my work, to be curious and open to feedback, and to do my best to take responsibility for the ways that I am a part of the problem. Most importantly, though, to anyone that I’ve hurt: I am so very sorry. Black voices must be heard. Black Lives Matter.”
Bell shared that she’d be quitting from her animated series via a statement through a series of tweets Wednesday.
“This is a time to acknowledge our acts of complicity. Heres 1 of mine. Playing the Molly in Central Park shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege. Casting a mixed race character w/a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race & Black American experience,” wrote Bell.
“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,” she continued.
Central Park, which will get two seasons on Apple TV+, was created by Bob’s Burgers creator Loren Bouchard, Nora Smith and Josh Gad.
The creators also released a statement, which Bell shared, saying in part that: “After reflection, 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.”