Rare as it is for voice actors behind an animated series’ core character to departs the show unexpectedly, Netflix’s Big Mouth is going through a bit of a lineup change in its fourth season. Jenny Slate, who previously played Missy, departed earlier this year to make way for staff writer Ayo Edebiri to take over the role.
The shakeup came at a time when a handful of white actors throughout Hollywood were coming expressing their belief that roles like Missy — who’s canonically both Black and Jewish — should be portrayed by people of colour both in order to bolster on-screen representation and to address the industry’s ongoing troubles with inclusivity. In a new interview with Vulture, though, series co-creator Nick Kroll and Edebiri explained that in addition to dealing with those issues, Missy’s recasting grew from a desire to tell more meaningful stories about her racial identity.
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“Our writers really have been engines pushing us to tell more nuanced stories about identity,” Kroll said. “We realised this is a show about different kids, all with their own personal journeys with puberty.”
While Big Mouth has acknowledged Missy’s ethnicity in moments where the series has put its focus more on her life at home with her family, the show hasn’t particularly delved into how her Blackness informs her relationships despite the fact that the show is all about how puberty’s just one of the elements of life that shapes a person. Being the oddball that Missy is and because Edebiri’s been writing in her voice, her transition into voicing the character was easy, Edebiri detailed, and her own personal experiences played a part in her approach to the character.
“I was a weird Black girl,” Edebiri. “I still am. But growing up, if you get told your interests are weird or not Black enough, you internalise that. I had to learn how to own those sides of myself to whoever was questioning it.”
Crass though Big Mouth’s always been, the show’s also had a beating heart and a deep love for its cast of misfits, and it’s going to be interesting to see what new sort of energy Edebiri brings to Missy’s personality when the series returns to Netflix for its fourth season on December 4.