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Black People for Black Characters

Netflix’s original show Big Mouth takes a look into the lives of pre-teens who are entering the beginning stages of puberty. In 2019, the show wrapped up its third season as well as sealing a deal with Netflix for the next three seasons. However, there will be a switch in the cast for the coming fourth season.

With the rise of racial tensions following the murder of George Floyd, many white Hollywood actors decided to step down from roles that could be better filled with black actors. One of these actors was Big Mouth’s Jenny Slate; she stepped down from her role as Missy. Missy is a biracial child with a white Jewish mother and a black father. Even though Jenny is Jewish, Slate believes that Missy should be played by a black actress. Slate took to Instagram with her decision exclaiming, “Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people…I am very sorry. Black voices must be heard. Black Lives Matter.”

Due to Slate’s decision, Big Mouth’s co-creator Andrew Goldberg had to replace the actor with a black actor for the 5th season since the fourth season was already completed; however, the show has decided to bring in the voice actress in the middle of the fourth season, therefore, the new actress will come into this role as her own and not follow the footsteps of Slate. Goldberg explains how the switch of the two actresses will be more organic during the fourth season because this is the same season Missy begins to identify with her black relative. The new voice of Missy is Ayo Edebiri.

Ayo Edebri, a 24-year-old standup comedian from New York City, will be taking over the role of Missy in Fall 2020. Edebri is mostly known for her story editing and screenplay writing on NBC’s SunnySide TV. Edebri tells Variety magazine how she is currently living in her childhood home and her bookshelf currently holds A Series of Unfortunate Events, Bill Clinton’s autobiography and Nelson Mandela’s autobiography and a translation of the ‘The Iliad’ in Latin, therefore, she can resonate with Missy’s dorky tendencies. In addition to joining The Big Mouth cast for their fourth season, Edebri will be joining the writer’s room for the fifth season of the show.

Missy should have been voiced by a black actress since the beginning of the show because she is a black character. Even though the writers of the show explained how the switch between the characters will be natural, Hollywood should voice characters based on their ethical identity. The recasting of Missy should have not waited until the racial tension following the murder of George Floyd. There should be no reason why the murder of a black man should make everyone realize their own racism. There are plenty of black actresses who could have played the role of Missy since the beginning of the show because black people deserve to play black characters. Black lives matter as well as the art they produce.