Connect with us

Entertainment

Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell Step Down as Voices Behind Biracial Characters on “Big Mouth” and “Central Park”

Published

on

  • Though most of the entertainment industry has been reflecting on how they have contributed to racial inequality, the world of animation captured particular attention this week. 
  • Jenny Slate apologized Wednesday and said she will no longer voice the biracial character, Missy, in the Netflix cartoon series “Big Mouth.”
  • That same day, Kristen Bell and the team behind Apple TV+’s new animated series “Central Park” said she will no longer voice the mixed-raced character, Molly.
  • Earlier this week, the creator of “BoJack Horseman” expressed regret about casting Alison Brie to voice the Vietnamese American character, Diane Nguyen, among other decisions.

Jenny Slate Leaves Big Mouth

Over the past several weeks, Hollywood leaders have been pushed to confront systemic racism and diversity issues that exist within their industry and projects.

For some shows and movies, the issues are much more visually present. For example, just this week, “30 Rock,” “Scrubs,” and other shows pulled episodes from streaming sites that included blackface. Meanwhile, HBO added a context disclaimer to “Gone with the Wind” after many noted that it perpetuates painful stereotypes. 

But the issues don’t just end there, and recently, people have also been focusing a lot of attention on casting in animated programs. Some relatively new shows that were particularly criticized are Netflix’s cartoon series “Big Mouth” and the Apple TV+  series “Central Park,” which both have biracial characters voiced by white actors. 

At least that was the case until Wednesday when actor and comedian Jenny Slate announced she will no longer be voicing the young Black character Missy on “Big Mouth.”

In a statement she posted to Instagram, she wrote, “At the start of the show, I reasoned with myself that it was permissible for me to paly ‘Missy’ because her mom is Jewish and White – as am I.”

“But ‘Missy’ is also Black, and Black character on an animated show should be played by Black people. I acknowledge how my original reasoning was flawed, that it existed as an example of white privilege and unjust allowances made within a system of societal white supremacy, and that in me playing ‘Missy,’ I was engaging in an act of erasure of Black people,” she continued.

“Ending my portrayal of ‘Missy’ is one step in a life-long process of uncovering the racism in my actions.” 

Slate went on to say that as she looks back at her career, she realizes she’s made mistakes, adding that while she can’t change the past, she can take accountability. She also promised to engage in meaningful anti-racist actions and closed with, “Most importantly, though, to anyone that I’ve hurt: I am so very sorry: Black voices must be heard. Black Lives Matter.”

Her decision was met with support from the show’s creators, who issued a joint statement a short time later. In it, they apologized and said they “wholeheartedly agree, that ‘Missy’ should be voiced by a Black actor.”

This was pretty big news considering the fact that Slate has played this character for three seasons since it premiered in 2017. Three more seasons of the show have already been ordered, and Slate has actually already recorded the fourth, which will air with her later this year.

After that season, Netflix will recast the role. 

Kristen Bell Leaves Central Park 

The same day as Slate’s announcement, the creative team behind “Central Park” said they would also recast the voice behind the mixed-race character Molly Tillerman.

“Central Park” debuted on May 29 of this year, with Kristen Bell voicing Molly. 

In a joint statement, the creative team praised Bell as an “extraordinarily talent actress,” saying she was part of the cast before there was even a role for her to play.

“But after reflection, Kristen, along with the entire creative team, recognizes that the casting of the character of Molly is an opportunity to get representation right – to cast a Black or mixed race actress and give Molly a voice that resonates with all of the nuance and experiences of the character as we’ve drawn her.”

They said Bell will continue to be a part of the show in a new role, and said they “profoundly regret that we might have contributed to anyone’s feeling of exclusion or erasure.”

At the end of their announcement, the team also said it was committed to creating opportunities for Black people in all areas of their projects, “behind the mic, in the writers room, in production, and in post-production.” 

When sharing those statements on Twitter, Bell added that playing Molly showed a “lack of awareness” of her privilege and “undermines the specificity of the mixed race & Black American experience.”

She also said she was happy to relinquish the role and is committed to doing more for quality and inclusion. 

BoJack Horseman Creator Reflects on Casting 

Creators for “Big Mouth” and “Central Park” aren’t the only ones who reflected on casting decisions this week.

On Tuesday, Raphael Bob-Waksberg, the creator of the Netflix cartoon “BoJack Horseman,” posted a long Twitter thread responding to questions about bringing on Alison Brie to voice the character, Diane Nguyen.

Bojack Horseman is in a bit of a different position than “Big Mouth” and “Central Park” since the show actually ended in January of this year after six seasons. 

Still, Bob-Waksberg shared some thoughts. First, he acknowledged that he tenses up when being asked about his mistakes because he’s worried about saying the wrong thing. Still, he said he hopes others seeing him do so will help them not make the same mistakes.


He talked about evading the question a lot in the past, his own perspective on casting evolving, and failures that were made when writing for a Vientamese- American character. 

He linked out to a few different interviews he’s done on the topic, realizing errors he made in those as well. Eventually said, “We should have hired a Vietnamese writer, and a Vietnamese actress to play Diane – or if not that, changed the character to match who we did hire.”

In another part of the thread, he added that he is grateful people engage in conversation with him or criticize him on this subject, acknowledging that it’s something he will continue to be asked about.

To that point, he added, “It’s important for me to keep saying it until everybody hears it. ESPECIALLY when my show suggests the opposite of it. And the “it” is this: the appearance of diversity without true diversity behind-the-scenes isn’t real representation; worse, it’s appropriation.” 

With all of this happening, it seems like a pretty big week for animated shows in Hollywood specifically. Conversations about representation in TV and film tend to focus on hiring behind the scenes and “whitewashing” in non-animated projects. 

In the past, Emma stone came under fire for playing a character of Hawaiian and Chinese heritage for the film “Aloha.” Scarlett Johannson probably also comes to mind since she was criticized for playing the lead role in the live-action adaptation of the Japanese anime in “Ghost in the Shell,” as well as for initially accepting the role of a transgender man in “Rub & Tug.”

Still, some argue that when it comes to acting, especially voice acting, there should be more flexibility about who can play what roles. Though others argue that this misses the point of why representation is so important and doesn’t help the efforts to combat systemic racism in Hollywood. 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (NBC News) (NME)

Advertisements

Entertainment

Zendaya, John David Washington, and “Euphoria” Creator Film Secret Movie During Coronavirus Pandemic

Published

on

  • “Malcolm & Marie,” a new picture starring Zendaya and John David Washington was completely written and shot during the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced most productions to halt in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
  • The film was written and directed by “Euphoria” creator Sam Levinson, who began the project after Zendaya asked him if he could pull off a quarantine movie.
  • The cast was under strict safety precautions and underwent a two-week quarantine on location before filming. While filming, sanitation, social distancing, and other measures were also taken. 
  • This comes as Hollywood is working on its plans to open up again, a complicated task made even more difficult by growing coronavirus cases.

Film Shot in Secret

Zendaya, along with John David Washington and “Euphoria” creator Sam Levinson, secretly filmed an entire movie during the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to a report from Deadline, the actress called Levinson after production for season 2 of “Euphoria,” which she also stars in, came to a halt over concerns regarding COVID-19. She asked if he could write and direct a movie during quarantine and just six days later, he churned out a script titled “Malcolm & Marie.”  Levinson then brought Golden Globe-nominated Washington on board to co-star in the feature alongside Zendaya. 

Shooting began on June 17 and wrapped up on July 2, according to Deadline’s exclusive. The film was shot at the Caterpillar House in Monterey County, California, where shooting on private property was allowed at the time. The house sits on 33 acres of land, providing plenty of space between the crew and the outside world. 

Safety Measures Taken

Levinson, Washington, Zendaya, and other producers on the project worked with lawyers, doctors and industry unions to make sure they were following COVID-19 safety precautions while on set. Deadline said that the cast and crew quarantined in Monterey for two weeks prior to shooting.

During that time, everyone wore masks, social distanced, had individual dwellings, rehearsed in the parking lot, and ate in designated spots with food only prepared by chefs who were also quarantining. No one was allowed off the property, no physical contact was allowed, and no more than one person was allowed in a room at the same time, unless those people had been quarantining together. 

Cast and crew were tested at the start and end of their quarantine, and the film kept to a relatively small crew. Only 12 people were allowed on set at a time, and had to wear personal protection equipment when in contact with actors. Physical distancing was required as much as possible. 

Production offices worked remotely and there were increased sanitation measures for those on set. Surfaces were cleaned, frequent hand washing was required, and people were not allowed to share things like keys or phones. 

Hollywood and Coronavirus

This comes as production fell last quarter by 98%, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Because of this, Hollywood is anxious to find a path forward with filming. Some bigger productions, like “Jurassic World: Dominion,” which is set to resume filming this month, will have large budgets devoted to sanitation. 

However, that picture is filming in the United Kingdom. Movies filming in the United States have to battle growing coronavirus cases, which could severely delay reopening plans.

Christopher Miller, a writer and producer behind hits like “The Lego Movie” and “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” warned that these increased cases could throw the industry further behind.  

Right now, Hollywood could look to “Malcolm & Marie” as an example of how to shoot a film while in quarantine. While it was completed in secrecy and details are still scant, projects designed to be completed in some form of isolation could be the answer. 

See what others are saying: (Deadline) (The Hollywood Reporter) (IndieWire)

Advertisements
Continue Reading

Entertainment

Lady A, Formerly Lady Antebellum, Sues Black Blues Singer Lady A Over Rights to Use Name

Published

on

  • In June, the country group Lady Antebellum renamed itself Lady A, dropping the word “antebellum” due to its association with slavery. However, a Black blues singer named Anita White noted that she had been using “Lady A” professionally for more than 20 years.
  • After a Zoom call between all parties, it appeared that they agreed to coexist, but White later said she felt the band’s camp was trying to erase her after seeing their draft agreement. 
  • On Wednesday, the band sued White for the right to use the name after claiming she demanded $10 million dollars as part of a draft settlement agreement. 
  • The band claims they trademarked the name in 2010 without opposition and are not seeking monetary damages or asking for White to stop using the name, but want all parties to coexist.

Country Band Rebrands 

Lady A, the country band formerly known as Lady Antebellum, is now in a legal battle with a Black blues singer named Anita White, who is known professionally as Lady A. 

Discussions over the use of “Lady A” have been going on for about a month now, so let’s take a look at how the issue started.

After nationwide protests over the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black people unjustly killed by police, people all across the country have been forced to confront systemic racism and their roles in perpetuating inequality. In response, there have been widespread changes, from TV shows removing scenes with blackface, to brands pulling logos that many deemed offensive.

The country band joined in on that movement, dropping “antebellum” from their name over its ties to slavery.

On June 11, bandmembers Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, and Dave Haywood said they would officially go by Lady A. At the time, the group said, “When we set out together almost 14 years ago we named our band after the southern “antebellum” style home where we took our first photos. As musicians, it reminded us of all the music born in the south that influenced us…southern rock, blues, R&B, gospel and of course country.”

“But we are regretful and embarrassed to say that we did not take into account the associations that weigh down this world referring to the period of history before the Civil War, which includes slavery. We are deeply sorry for the hurt this has caused and for anyone who has felt unsafe, unseen or unvalued. Causing pain was never our heart’s intention, but it doesn’t change the fact that indeed, it did just that.”

Anita White Blindsided 

But soon after, Anita White came forward to say she had been using Lady A as a stage name for over 20 years and was blindsided by the country band’s announcement. Her fans reportedly bombarded her with the news that her name has been solen, and in an interview with Rolling Stone, the 61-year-old singer said the band hadn’t reached out to her before making their decision. 

At the time, she called it ironic that they were changing their name in support of racial equality while at the same time taking another name from a Black performer. She said she would not stop using the name and called their failure to reach out “pure privilege.”

“They’re using the name because of a Black Lives Matter incident that, for them, is just a moment in time. If it mattered, it would have mattered to them before. It shouldn’t have taken George Floyd to die for them to realize that their name had a slave reference to it,” she added. 

“It’s an opportunity for them to pretend they’re not racist or pretend this means something to them.” 

Discussions Take Place 

After facing questions about White, the band admitted that they were not aware she was already using the name and planned to reach out. 

Then on June 15, they shared an image of a Zoom call with White that seemed to suggest they had reached an agreement. “We are excited to share we are moving forward with positive solutions and common ground. The hurt is turning into hope. More to come,” the band wrote at the time. 

White tweeted out a similar message, however, shortly after the chat, she told Newsday, “I received a draft agreement from the Antebellum camp. I’m not happy about [it] yet again after talking in good faith… Their camp is trying to erase me and I’ll have more to say tomorrow. Trust is important and I no longer trust them.”

Lawsuit 

Tensions escalated Wednesday when the band sued the singer for the rights to use the name. According to the lawsuit, the parties involved had agreed to coexist, with the band agreeing to support the singer’s musical career. It even says they had plans to collaborate on a song together. 

However, the band says talks fell apart when “White’s new counsel delivered a draft settlement agreement that included an exorbitant monetary demand.”

The group said in a statement, “Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended. She and her team have demanded a $10 million payment, so reluctantly we have come to the conclusion that we need to ask a court to affirm our right to continue to use the name Lady A, a trademark we have held for many years.”

“We are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended. We can do so much more together than in this dispute.”

The suit outlines the band’s history with the name, saying they’ve used Lady Antebellum and “Lady A” interchangeable since around 2006 or 2007. The filing reportedly included documents of the band’s website and other reports demonstrating their use of the name. 

According to the suit, the group applied to register “Lady A’ as a trademark in 2010. It was officially registered in 2011 and reportedly received no opposition at the time.   

The suit says White never applied to trademark or register the name “Lady A.” The legal filing also doesn’t ask for White to stop using the name, or for any monetary damages. Instead, it says, “Plaintiffs simply wish that the parties continue to coexist.” 

Reactions 

Backlash against the group came swiftly following news of the suit, with people now questioning if the intentions behind their initial name change were genuine. 

One user wrote,  Lady Antebellum changing their name to Lady A to show solidarity with BLM only to SUE AN ACTUAL BLACK ARTIST who already has that name is performative wokeness at its BLEAKEST.”

Even though the group filed for a trademark, some think it’s still not a good look for them to file a lawsuit against a Black artist over the name. Some argued that they should just pick something else. 

Still, there are many who view White’s request for $10 million as extortion and believe the band was trying to come to a peaceful resolution. 

Meanwhile, others believe it’s likely a defensive move on the band’s part to get legal approval for use of the name in case White decides to sue them. 

White, for her part, simply tweeted, “No Weapon formed against me shall prosper” following the news, but has not commented much further. 

Either way, it seems like the bands attempt to avoid controversy with their name has now brought along just that. 

See what others are saying: (CMT) (The Hollywood Reporter) (Entertainment Weekly) 

Advertisements
Continue Reading

Entertainment

Halle Berry Apologizes for Considering a Transgender Role in an Upcoming Film

Published

on

  • In an Instagram live interview Friday, Halle Berry mentioned that she was considering taking the role of a transgender man, while repeatedly misgendering him by using “she/her” pronouns. 
  • Some responded with anger, but many asked her to reconsider and educate herself on trans issues. 
  • People specifically asked her to watch Netflix’s “Disclosure,” a documentary that explores trans representation in Hollywood and the real-world implications trans depictions have on the trans community. 
  • Halle apologized Monday, promising to promote better representation both on and offscreen. Her apology was welcomed by fans, GLAAD, and “Disclosure,” which thanked her for listening and learning. 

Berry Considers Taking Transgender Role 

After a weekend of backlash, education, and conversations about transgender representation, actor Halle Berry announced Monday that she is no longer considering plans to play a transgender character.

The backlash against Berry first appeared Friday after she took part in an Instagram live interview with hairstylist Christin Brown. In that stream, Berry talked about possibly cutting her hair short again for a potential new film project, saying, “I’m thinking of playing a character where the woman is a trans character, so my hair is gonna have to be – she’s a woman that transitioned into a man, so my hair is going to be really shaved.” 

“I want to experience that world, I want to understand that world. I want to understand that character. I want to deep dive in that in the way I did ‘Bruised,’ Berry continued.

“This world, who this woman was is so interesting to me, and that will probably be my next acting role.”

“It’s really important to me to tell stories, and that’s a woman, that’s a female story actually– it changes to a man, but I want to understand the why and how of that,” she added.

Internet Asks Berry to Reconsider 

When people caught wind of this interview, people took issue with her remarks and the idea that a cisgender woman would be taking on such a role.

This isn’t exactly a new point of debate. For instance, Scarlett Johansson came under similar scrutiny in the past when she initially accepting the role of a transgender man for the film “Rub & Tug,” which she later walked away from after backlash. 

However, in Berry’s case, people were also upset by her lack of knowledge about the transgender community, noting that she repeatedly misgendered the character by using “she/her pronouns.”   

Still, while some people responded with anger, a lot of people took the approach of asking her to educate herself on trans issues and reconsider taking that role. Many actually asked her to watch Netflix’s new documentary “Disclosure,” which is executive produced by Laverne Cox. That film takes an in-depth look at Hollywood’s depiction of transgender people to help understand the real-world implications they have on the trans community. 

On Monday, the official Twitter account for the documentary even shared a clip from the project, writing, “Today is a good day to remind people that casting trans actors in trans roles is more than about opportunity.”

Then it directly addressed Berry in another post, asking her to watch the film “to understand how cis actors like yourself acting in trans roles has major cultural consequences offscreen.”

Others continued sharing similar messages, including the film’s director Sam Feder, who added, “Often people don’t know what they don’t know. And that’s ok!” 

Halley Berry Responds 

By Monday evening, Berry responded with a statement posted to her social media pages apologizing for her remarks and adding, “As a cisgender woman, I now understand that I should not have considered this role, and that the transgender community should undeniably have the opportunity to tell their own stories.”

She explained that she was grateful for the guidance and critical conversations that have taken place over the last few days, adding. “I will continue to listen, educate and learn from this mistake. I vow to be an ally in using my voice to promote better representation on-screen, both in front of and behind the camera.” 

Berry Thanked for Listening

Berry’s statement was received very well, with a lot of people thanking her for being willing to engage in dialogue with others and responding with a statement so quickly. 

Similar sentiments came from the documentary’s account, which thanked her for listening and learning. 

GLAAD also tweeted at Berry, saying it was pleased that she had listened to the concerns of transgender people, adding, “Other powerful people should do the same.” 

Still, Berry has faced some criticism from those angry with her for apologizing, as some believe there should more flexibility in Hollywood about who can play what roles. Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro for instance called her statement “performative wokeness.” 

But that is a point the film’s Twitter account hit on Monday when it first addressed Berry’s initial comments. At the time, the account tweeted, “In preemptive response to the critique that all artists should be able to play any role.@Lavernecox “I think if all things were equal, then [yes]. But all things are not equal.”

See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (Insider) (Vanity Fair

Advertisements
Continue Reading