Following the recent events of racial injustice in America, the television industry is taking a deeper look at non-diverse casting. Netflix’s “Big Mouth” and Apple TV’s “Central Park” are two animated sitcoms closely involved in the matter.
On Wednesday, June 24, Kristen Bell and Jenny Slate released statements via Instagram describing their intent to leave their roles on their separate sitcoms behind. Both said it is time to allow a biracial actress to step into the voice of biracial characters.
Bell previously voiced the character of Molly Tillerman on “Central Park.” The show made its debut in May of 2020.
Slate has been the woman behind “Big Mouth’s” Missy since the start of the show three years ago.
Having a white actor or actress voice a character in a diverse community and society completely undermines the experiences of persons of color.
“I reasoned with myself that it was permissible to play Missy because her mom is Jewish and white – as am I,” Slate said in her Instagram post. This proves Slate knew from the get-go it was not okay to play the character of Missy but convinced herself otherwise to make the scenario seem lesser than it is.
In Bell’s statement, the “Central Park” crew apologized for any feelings of exclusion or erasure fans of the show may have felt. Her statement went on to say, “We’re committed to creating opportunities for people of color and Black people in all roles, on all our projects — behind the mic, in the writers room, in production and in post production.”
Other shows making headlines are Fox’s long-time favorites “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.” The Simpsons producers announced they will completely recast the voices behind all diverse characters.
Mike Henry, who has voiced Cleveland on “Family Guy” for nearly 20 years, said in an Instagram statement on June 26, “I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color. Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role.”
Wendell Pierce launched a hashtag campaign, #WendellIsCleveland, to take over the voice role of Cleveland on “Family Guy.”
Hollywood has come under fire for diverse representation in the past, but at the same time, it’s a shame it took the death of George Floyd to create change. This has been a long occurring issue within both television and film. We have seen questionable casting choices for years.
There has been a lack of diversity across screens nationwide, many times where a white actor or actress stood in the way of a role that a person of color should technically play.
We see this in other areas as well, with characters on screen being members of the LGBTQ+ community, yet a straight passing actor or actress is the one starring in the show.
For example, Darren Criss has played numerous gay characters, such as Blaine in “Glee” or the infamous Andrew Cunanan in “American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace.”
We also saw Nick Robinson play Simon Spier in “Love, Simon,” and Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer played Elio and Oliver in critically acclaimed “Call Me by Your Name.”
All of these actors identify as straight males but play roles in which they have no personal experience to feed from. There are many talented actors in the LGBTQ+ community more fit to star in these roles.
The creators and crew behind these widely beloved shows and movies are taking a step in the right direction in the ultimate fight for equality. However, there is still so much to be done.
Hollywood needs to properly cast characters based on background and experience across the board. It is vital that television and film better support the communities of the underrepresented in our country.
Recent shows which have done an excellent job on casting are Netflix's “Hollywood,” NBC’s “Superstore” and Pop Network’s “Schitt’s Creek.” They have casted well with both LGBTQ+ and ethnic representation.
Hopefully, we will see creators behind animated sitcoms continue to evolve their casting choices and keep up with their decisions. The way television was made 20 years ago simply cannot get past these issues anymore.
Kristen Bell and Jenny Slate both helped the cause in important ways. Hollywood can and should do better. Fans can sign petitions and voice their thoughts on social media to help the efforts of bettering diversity.