Netflix’s animated comedy Big Mouth just announced that Ayo Edebiri will be replacing Jenny Slate as the voice of Missy. Edebiri is a comedian and producer, who had already joined the show’s writing team for the fifth season. Slate left the show in late June in a response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
A Perfect Fit
In an exclusive with Variety, Edebiri revealed just how fitting the role of nerdy-romantic Missy really is.
“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,” Edebiri says. “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 addresses the challenges of puberty through a group of students at a middle-school in New York. Nick Kroll created the show in part as a way to explore his own insecurities stemming from the gauntlet running that is puberty.
A Smooth Transition
Edebiri will be taking over the role in the second to last episode of season four. Slate had already recorded the episodes leading up to that point.
Co-creator Andrew Goldberg said co-creator Jennifer Flackett figured out a way to make the switchover in “a really organic and cool place.” Thanks to Big Mouth‘s topics and themes, a sudden change in a character could be completely fitting. In recent episodes, Missy has been coming to terms with her own sexuality and confidence. Leaving Slate’s childlike and highly expressive voice behind might be a very appropriate, meaningful change.
Why The Switch?
Amid the movement to address systemic racism in the U.S., people are demanding that the entertainment industry change. It needs to work toward more equal representation and opportunity. Hence, the issue of having white actors play non-white characters has been a significant problem in keeping the space non-inclusive.
In the end of June, Slate announced via an Instagram post she could no longer play a Black character. She wrote:
“I have come to the decision today that I can no longer play the character of ‘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.”
Kroll says the change will let them “tell more nuanced stories about Missy’s identity.” He says they when they created the character, her main identity was that of a “dorky girl.” The fact that she was Black was a bit of an afterthought. However, if Black characters do not engage with Black culture in a meaningful way, it can make the diversity in a show seem a bit contrived. Edebiri’s portrayal will bring a new, thoughtful layer to the outrageous, yet contemplative show.