Actor and comedian Jenny Slate opened up about her decision to no longer voice a Black character on Netflix's animated series Big Mouth, saying she realized her original decision to take the role was "flawed and racist."
"I looked around my life and I could see very clearly where my reasoning was flawed and racist," Slate told BuzzFeed's News O'Clock podcast on Tuesday, "which is, I think, a scary word for white people to say because they couldn't feel like it means 'Oh, I'm a bad person,' you know, or 'I'm the same as the person that drove the car through protesters.'"
Slate said the decision to no longer voice the role of Missy, a young Black girl on the animated series, felt like a tangible action she could take toward change — beyond protesting and posting to social media — at such a critical moment in history.
"I think I, as a white person, was looking around the world in the last couple of months and thinking, Well, there is something that I genuinely don't understand and I should understand it," Slate said. "And there can be shame and other feelings that come into that. But those are, at least for me, the impetus to make the change."
Slate announced the decision last month to step back from the role. She said at the time that she had reasoned she could play Missy because the character's mother is Jewish and white, just like her.
"But 'Missy' is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people," she said in her Instagram post. "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."
The actor — who stars in the upcoming film The Sunlit Night, which she also produced — told BuzzFeed she doesn't want praise for her decision but hopes it encourages other white people to consider changes they could make.
"It's something that needed to happen. It's not about me. While I am not at all, like, afraid of it or afraid to talk about it, I don't think I should be getting any attention for it," she said. "I think it should call attention to the situation at hand, which is one that many white people can immediately sort of, like, act to change."
The same day Slate announced her decision, the team behind Central Park, an animated Apple TV+ series, announced that Kristen Bell will not be voicing a mixed-race character on the show. Mike Henry, a white actor who had voiced Cleveland Brown, a Black character on Family Guy, also tweeted that he will be stepping down from the role, and The Simpsons announced that white actors will no longer voice characters of color.