A couple of months ago, as much of the animation industry reckoned with its regular tendency to cast non-Black actors to voice Black characters, Jenny Slate, who previously voiced the Black character Missy on Netflix’s Big Mouth, publicly stepped away from the role. Now, as revealed by Variety, actress, writer, and comedian Ayo Edebiri will be taking it on.
“I was definitely a very uncomfortable child, so I think the show speaks to that and a lot of those feelings, which still resonate with me as an adult,” Edibiri said in an interview with Variety. “I’m back home in my childhood bedroom right now and on my bookshelf in between A Series of Unfortunate Events is Bill Clinton’s autobiography and Nelson Mandela’s autobiography and a translation of The Iliad in Latin. I was a true dork. So I don’t think I have to go too far to connect with Missy.”
The show, helmed by Andrew Goldberg and Nick Kroll, will be handling the transition to the new voice in a novel way. While Slate will voice Missy throughout most of the as-of-yet-unreleased fourth season, Edebiri will take on the role in the season’s final episode, in what is “a really cool and organic place,” said Goldberg.
White actors voicing animated characters of colour has been an issue for as long as animation has existed. It can lead to racist and stereotypical interpretations and just generally unacceptable appropriation. It’s an overdue realisation that (finally) led The Simpsons to rethink the character of Apu. This week, at least...Read more
Edibiri, who has written for NBC’s Sunnyside, originally joined Big Mouth as a writer, before auditioning for Missy alongside a wide number of other actors who were interested in the role after Slate publicly resigned from it.
“It’s about Missy’s continued evolution as a person — that she has all of these different parts of who she is. There’s the sidelines Missy and the more sexually adventurous Missy, mirror Missy, and then also this Missy that she’s been discovering [in Season 4] through hanging out with her cousins and really taking a look at her Black identity,” Nick Kroll told Variety, about the moment when Edibiri takes over.
According to Edibiri and the show’s creators, the transition will allow the show to tell more nuanced and interesting stories about Missy and her identity, which is one obvious advantage of having people actually involved in that identity working on the show. These stories, Edibiri said, would include “stories you may traditionally not see as fun” set within the show’s humorous context.
“There are lessons to be learned [from the show] and its growing pains — like on the show,” Edibiri said. “To me, it’s nothing but exciting. As a show and as a room and as a moment, it feels like it’s happening, and hopefully it’s here to stay.”
Big Mouth is currently late in production on its fourth season, which does not yet have a premiere date.