Last night, the voice of Missy, a biracial character from Netflix’s hit animated series Big Mouth, announced that she would be leaving the show.
The actress said in an Instagram post: “I have come to the decision today that I can no longer play the character “Missy” on the animated TV show “Big Mouth.”
“At the start of the show, I reasoned with myself that it was permissible for me to play ‘Missy’ because her mom is Jewish and White — as am I. But ‘Missy’ is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people.” – Jenny Slate.
Slate went onto the say that her ending of portraying the ‘Missy’ role is “one step in a life-long process of uncovering the racism in my actions.” The show’s creators have now vowed to cast a black actress for the role, issuing a statement that they regret their initial decision to cast a white actor.
Slate’s decision to leave the show follows a similar resignation by Kristen Bell, who voiced a mixed-race character in the animated series Central Park.
Now, there is a worldwide conversation about voice actor roles, and there are other white actors who have played black characters that may surprise you.
Cleveland Brown, Mike Henry
For years, the most prominent black character in Family Guy was Cleveland Brown, who got his own spin-off, The Cleveland Show, back in 2009. However, many fans may not know that Cleveland Brown is voiced by Mike Henry, a white actor.
Henry joined the Family Guy team back in the late-1990’s as a writer and voice actor, who has stated that Brown was based on “this guy [he] had once played basketball with.”
Aside from Family Guy and The Cleveland Show, Henry has starred in American Dad!, Robot Chicken and The Orville. Whilst The Cleveland Show was cancelled after 88 episodes back in 2013, the series is still aired on Comedy Central around the world.
UPDATE: Last night, Henry announced on Twitter that he would be stepping down as the voice of Cleveland Brown. The actor said: “It’s been an honor to play Cleveland on Family Guy for 20 years. I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color. Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role.”
Dr Julius M. Hibbert, Henry Shearer
Henry Shearer voices a whole host of characters on The Simpsons, from Ned Flanders and Mr. Burns to Principal Skinner, but he also voices Dr. Julius M. Hibbert.
Hibbert is the optimistic, genius family doctor for the people of Springfield and has appeared in multiple flashbacks of Bart and Lisa as children.
According to the commentary for ‘Bart the Daredevil’ in The Simpsons: The Complete Second Season DVD, Hibbert is a parody of Bill Cosby’s character Dr. Cliff Huxtable.
Aside from The Simpsons, Shearer has also featured in This Is Spinal Tap (1984), The Truman Show (1998) and Saturday Night Live (1979 – 1985).
Carlton Carlson, Hank Azaria
Another entry from The Simpsons, but this time it’s Moe’s bar frequenter and close friend of Homer, Carlton Carlson who is voiced by white actor, Hank Azaria.
Interestingly, Carlton has a strange history with racial stereotypes in The Simpsons. In ‘The Great Wife Hope’, he is offended by the idea he knows all of the African-American people in Springfield, but that he has met them all at a party hosted by Dr. Hibbert. Similarly, in ‘Children of a Lesser Clod’, he is irritated by assumptions that he is an excellent basketball player but proves it to be amazing in the same sequence.
Azaria also voiced Moe, Chief Wiggum and Apu on The Simpsons, but fans may also recognise him from Godzilla (1998), Run Fatboy Run (2007) and Brockmire (2017-2020).
Marshmallow, David Herman
As one of the few black transgender characters on the small screen, it may surprise you to know that Marshmallow in Bob’s Burgers is voiced by white cisgender male David Herman.
The character has already been at the centre of controversy, with the show’s creators being accused of stereotyping sex workers and being transphobic.
However, it does appear that Marshmallow will also be recast following Kristen Bell and Jenny Slate. Yesterday, June 24, the creator of Bob’s Burgers Loren Bouchard tweeted “yes. On it” in response to a user asking for the recasting of “our girl Marshmallow.”
PSI, Travis Turner
Whilst a few people may not recognise this character at first, it’s an important one to include within the conversation here.
Turner, a white actor, voices PSI in Spy Kids: Mission Critical, a black character, but it was his response to recent discussions on voice actor roles that prompts interest.
According to TMZ, the actor claims that it is okay that he portrays PSI because he is super urban and makes music with black artists, including Snoop Dog.