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How Ayo Edebiri Really Feels About Replacing Jenny Slate In Big Mouth

As time goes on, society can look back at past TV and movies and clearly see some bad casting and lack of representation. With racial injustice at the forefront of people's minds in 2020, the cast of Netflix's adult animated series Big Mouth took a hard look at their own show, and in July, voice actor Jenny Slate decided to rectify something that she now saw as wrong — her casting as a character named Missy, who is bi-racial, while Slate is not. Making a statement on her Instagram, Slate announced that she would step down from the role, saying, "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." By playing Missy, she said she "was engaging in an act of erasure of Black people."

The creators of Big Mouth agreed with her decision in a statement posted on Twitter, vowing "to do better moving forward" and recast Missy with a Black voice actor. A month later, Variety reported that Ayo Edebiri was cast as Missy, replacing Slate in the show's fourth season. Previously, Edebiri was a writer on the show Sunnyside, and she has an acting role in the upcoming second season of Dickinson. With Big Mouth season 4 premiering on December 4, Edebiri spoke to Entertainment Weekly about her reaction to Slate's decision, and her experience becoming Missy.

Ayo Edebiri said that replacing Jenny Slate as Missy is a 'good step' towards needed changes in the industry

In the interview, Edebiri was asked what she thought of the decision to replace Slate with a Black voice actor. "I think this is the right thing that should have happened," she said. "I think it is just about doing what is right and having equity in the industry." Expanding on her statement, she referred to the switch as "positive and well-intentioned, and it's a good step on the way to changes that have needed to happen." As Slate did all of her season 4 voice work before she stepped down, Edebiri was able to be a direct part of the transition, taking over the role for the last two episodes of season 4 and on.

Before Slate left the role, Edebiri was brought on to Big Mouth as a new writer for season 5, and she shared her initial thoughts on Slate's casting as a bi-racial character before the decision to switch actors was made. She said that "as a Black person who works in animation, I had thought about it, but I had never really talked about it." Thankfully, Slate and the creators realized their mistake on their own, and now, as Edebiri pointed out, "we're seeing it happen in real time that what we thought was acceptable maybe isn't, and we're learning why and learning to have conversations about it."

For Edebiri, the transition into the role of Missy has been a unique experience in seeing how a show can handle a change like this successfully and fluidly. Moving forward with the character, Edebiri will continue to make Missy her own and encourage the progressive shift of representation in television and film.