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

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  • 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)

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Tiger Woods Recovering From Surgery After Serious Car Crash

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  • Golf star Tiger Woods was rushed to a hospital in Los Angeles County Tuesday morning after he was involved in a single-car crash.
  • Authorities say Woods hit a median strip while traveling at a “greater than normal speed” on a downhill and curved two-way road. 
  • His SUV traveled several hundred feet, rolled over multiple times, and came to a rest in the brush on the opposite side of the road. 
  • By Tuesday night, a spokesperson said he was awake and recovering after undergoing surgery for broken bones in his lower right leg and ankle.

Tiger Woods Crashes

Golf star Tiger Woods was rushed to a hospital in Los Angeles County Tuesday morning after he was involved in a single-car crash.

Authorities say he was driving at a “greater speed than normal” on a downhill and curved road that is a known trouble spot for accidents.

Woods reportedly hit a median strip on the two-lane road, then traveled several hundred feet, rolled over multiple times, and came to a rest in the brush on the opposite side of the road. 

Representatives for Woods issued a statement on social media last night, saying he was awake and recovering in a hospital after undergoing a long surgery.

The Chief Medical Officer at UCLA Medical Center said in the statement that both bones in Woods’s lower right leg, the tibia and fibula, had been broken in multiple places and were “open fractures,” meaning they pierced his skin.

They said doctors had “stabilized” the breaks by placing a rod into the tibia. Additional bones in Woods’s ankle and foot were also injured and were “stabilized with a combination of screws and pins.”

The statement did not mention any injuries to Woods’s left leg, though the county’s fire chief said earlier in the day that Woods had suffered serious injuries to both legs.

Authorities Say He’s Lucky To Be Alive

After seeing the crash site, LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said it was “nothing short of a miracle” that Woods was alive.

Authorities believed Wood’s seat belt, along with safety features in his SUV, likely saved his life. 

Sheriff Villanueva also said there was no evidence of impairment and there was no effort to draw blood for a test at the hospital. 

The crash comes as Woods was recovering from his fifth back operation, which took place last month. It marks a devastating blow to the golfer, who was hoping to recover and compete in another tournament this April. 

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (ESPN) (CNN)

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Zendaya Says Criticism of “Malcolm & Marie” Stripped Her and Co-Star John David Washington of Their Agency

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  • The Netflix film “Malcolm & Marie” faced criticism from viewers who said writer and director Sam Levinson used two Black actors, Zendaya and John David Washington, to voice his own personal opinions on race and identity politics in Hollywood.
  • However, Zendaya told The New York Times the criticism was unfair because both she and Washington helped Levinson craft the script and were producers of the film.
  • “I think a little bit of our agency was stripped away,” she said. “John David, I and Sam equally own this film.”
  • She later told the Los Angeles Times that she feels the conversations she had with Levinson about race came through in the film’s script.

“Malcolm & Marie” Faces Criticism

Zendaya is addressing the backlash and criticism that her film “Malcolm & Marie” has received for its discussions of race in Hollywood. 

The film, written and directed by Sam Levinson, co-stars Zendaya and John David Washington as a couple that spends the night arguing after getting home from the premiere of a film Washington’s character directed.

“Malcolm & Marie” is full of long and winding monologues not just about relationship troubles, but also about the roles race and identity politics play in the interpretation and criticism of film.

Ironically but perhaps intentionally, those monologues are at the center of the criticism the movie has received. Journalists have panned the film, and speeches delivered by Washington’s Malcolm in particular, for their trite and exhausting dialogue that ultimately runs in circles. 

Many have specifically taken issue with the fact that Levinson, a white man and the son of a famed director himself, seemingly inserted his own angers about film criticism into words uttered by two acclaimed Black actors. 

“There are many moments where it feels as if Malcolm, who is a Black Hollywood director, serves as a mouthpiece for Levinson’s own opinions on race and filmmaking,” Micha Frazer-Carroll wrote for The Independent.

In a piece for The Guardian, Robert Daniels wrote that the film uses Black actors to vent white frustration. Daniels suggested that Levinson could have used the character of Malcolm to discuss the way white critics interpret work by Black filmmakers, but instead, “uses Malcolm as a black shield for his real target, not the critics who analyze black works, but the ones who interpret his.”

“As ‘Malcolm & Marie’ unfurls, Levinson shifts Malcolm’s voice from a black one, to the white director’s own,” Daniels continued. 

Zendaya Addresses Backlash

However, Zendaya feels these criticisms are unfair and disregard the fact that both she and Washington produced the film and were heavily involved in every aspect its creation. Levinson and both of the stars have talked numerous times about how collaborative the set was and how Zendaya and Washington were part of the process of crafting the script and their characters.

“I think a little bit of our agency was stripped away,” she told The New York Times on Sunday. “Like this was just kind of Sam spewing things through us without realizing that we are not only actors in this, but we’re co-financiers and producers with P.G.A. marks. You can’t get those unless you actually do the job.”

“John David, I and Sam equally own this film,” she continued. “It’s not like it belongs to someone else and I just got cast in it. He wrote it for us too, and I think if you’re going to write something, you have to acknowledge experiences of the [Black] character you’re writing.”

In a Tuesday piece from the Los Angeles Times, she expanded on how personal producing this project felt to her.

“I’m putting my own money into it,” the actress explained. “I’m producing something, so I’m putting myself out there in a much more vulnerable position than I’ve ever been in.”

She also said that she spoke about Levinson about race and Hollywood and felt that her ideas did come through in the script.

“There’s conversations that I’ve had with Sam that reflect a little bit in things that Malcolm says about his creativity and being boxed in, specifically being a Black creative that feels like there’s a certain lens their work is looked through — those kinds of things,” she said.

Levinson has similarly dismissed criticisms made about him being white and making a film with Black protagonists. 

“I have faith in the collaborative process and in my partners that if I write something that doesn’t feel true, that JD or Z don’t respond to or feel to be honest, that they are going to say something and we’ll work it out,” he told Esquire. “I didn’t have anxiety in that sense because I have too much respect for the collaborative nature of filmmaking.”

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (New York Times) (IndieWire)

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DaBaby Responds To Claims That He Dissed JoJo Siwa

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  • Rapper DaBaby clarified Sunday that the lyric, “You a b*tch, JoJo Siwa,” in his song “Beatbox Freestyle” was not meant to diss the 17-year-old children’s entertainer.
  • After facing intense criticism, DaBaby tweeted at Siwa claiming his toddler is a big fan of hers, adding, “Don’t let em trick you into thinking id ever have a problem with you. My wordplay just went over their heads.”
  • Several outlets suggested that “JoJo” was a reference to himself since DaBaby’s real name is Jonathan.
  • Based on other tweets from the rapper, “Siwa” was intended to sound like “see why,” making the use of her name mean “Jonathan see why.”

DaBaby References JoJo Siwa in Lyric

DaBaby said he has no beef with JoJo Siwa after he was accused of dissing the 17-year-old children’s entertainer in a new song. 

DaBaby released the video for “Beatbox Freestyle” on Friday. Following its release, he was criticized for rapping the lyric “You a b*tch, JoJo Siwa (B*tch.)”

The lyric outraged many people who felt it was insulting and uncalled for. Popular YouTube creators including James Charles, Nikita Dragun, and Tana Mongeau all called him out for mentioning Siwa in the song.

“Can someone please explain why da baby is dissing jojo siwa when she’s 12 years younger, 10 times richer, and 2 inches taller than him,” Charles wrote on Twitter. 

DaBaby Says He Has No Issues with JoJo Siwa

In a series of tweets on Sunday, DaBaby cleared the air and said the lyric was not meant to attack Siwa herself. He tagged Siwa in one post and said his 3-year-old daughter is actually a big fan of the teen star. 

“Don’t let em trick you into thinking id ever have a problem with you,” DaBaby continued. “My word play just went over their heads. All love on my end shawty, Keep shinning!”

Entertainment Tonight explained that “JoJo” is short for DaBaby’s real name, Jonathan. He used “Siwa” as a shorthand for “see why,” so the lyric is effectively saying “Jonathan see why.” In several tweets, he referenced that wordplay and joked about how so many people misunderstood it.

“I don’t ‘Siwa’ they so mad either bae,” he wrote in one tweet. 

DaBaby also addressed the situation on Instagram, where he expressed frustration with outlets trying to suggest he might really be feuding with Siwa. 

“Y’all MFs sick lol,” he wrote in his story on Sunday. “Y’all okay w/ that child being tricked into thinking i got a problem with her. WE FUCK WIT YOU JOJO.”

Siwa has not yet responded to the lyric or DaBaby’s explanation of it.

See what others are saying: (Entertainment Tonight) (Billboard) (People)

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