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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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Chrissy Teigen Apologizes To Courtney Stodden Following Backlash Over Old Tweets

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  • In a recent interview with The Daily Beast, Courtney Stodden, who gained tabloid attention a decade ago after marrying 51-year-old Doug Hutchison at the age of 16, said model Chrissy Teigen would privately DM me and tell me to kill myself.”
  • The direct messages have not been verified but Internet users dug up old tweets Teigen posted telling Stodden to take a “dirt nap.”
  • Many called Teigen out for harassing a then-teenager and telling them to die, especially since Teigen has been vocal about her own experiences with online hate, which prompted her to temporarily leave Twitter earlier this year.
  • On Wednesday, Teigen apologized to Stodden and said she was “ashamed and completely embarrassed” by her past remarks.

Courtney Stodden Speaks Out

Model and television personality Chrissy Teigen apologized on Wednesday for old comments she allegedly made 10 years ago, encouraging then-teenager Courtney Stodden to kill themself. 

In a profile by The Daily Beast, Stodden (who uses they/them pronouns) accused Teigen of sending them messages encouraging suicide.

“She wouldn’t just publicly tweet about wanting me to take ‘a dirt nap’ but would privately DM me and tell me to kill myself,” Stoddon told The Daily Beast, referring to Teigen. “Things like, ‘I can’t wait for you to die.’”

Teigen became a trending topic on Tuesday as people began sharing the article. Now, she is finally addressing the controversy.

“Not a lot of people are lucky enough to be held accountable for all their past bullshit in front of the entire world,” she wrote on Twitter. “I’m mortified and sad at who I used to be. I was an insecure, attention seeking troll. I am ashamed and completely embarrassed at my behavior but that is nothing compared to how I made Courtney feel.”

Stodden made headlines in 2011 after marrying 51-year-old Doug Hutchison at the age of 16. The couple has since divorced, but at the time of their marriage, their relationship was the subject of incessant tabloid coverage. Rather than show concern for Stodden’s situation as a victim of grooming, the media and public shamed and ridiculed them relentlessly. 

Teigen was one of many stars that Stodden said used to mock them. Stodden told The Daily Beast that “The View “co-host Joy Behar referred to them as a “slut” and musician Courtney Love called them a “whore.” They also claimed that of all the celebrities to use such harsh language, the only one to apologize since is Perez Hilton.

Chrissy Teigen Faces Backlash

While the direct messages Teigen allegedly sent have not been verified, several Twitter users recovered and shared old tweets Teigen posted at the height of Stodden’s fame. In one, Teigen says her “fantasy” would be for Stodden to take “a dirt nap.” In another, she told Stodden to “go to sleep forever.”

Many called the star out for bullying a 16-year-old. 

“Chrissy Teigen tried to bully a 16yo abuse victim into suicide?” one person wrote. “This is so much more than ‘oh she’s annoying on twitter’ she’s a fucking monster.”

Some claimed that her tweets should be considered a violation of Twitter’s terms of service. Others noted that earlier this year, Teigen temporarily left Twitter, citing copious amounts of online hate. Some found it hypocritical that she previously incited that same hate, then left the platform when it was being directed towards her. 

“I’m so sorry, Courtney. I hope you can heal now knowing how deeply sorry I am,” Teigen continued on Wednesday, adding that she wants to constantly work to be a better person.

See what others are saying: (BuzzFeed News) (The Daily Beast) (A.V. Club)

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Ellen DeGeneres Announces End of Her Daytime Talk Show

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  • In a Hollywood Reporter interview published Wednesday, Ellen DeGeneres revealed that she is ending her talk show after its upcoming 19th season.
  • Many believe the decision came in response to toxic workplace allegations the host and her show faced last summer, but DeGeneres said the plans were in motion far before that because the show is no longer challenging enough for her. 
  • Staffers were notified of the decision Tuesday and DeGeneres will discuss the news on Wednesday’s episode of her show with Oprah Winfrey, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Ellen DeGeneres Show To End With Season 19

Ellen DeGeneres is officially pulling the plug on her daytime talk show.

In an exclusive interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the comedian and host announced that her upcoming 19th season will be her last. She informed staff of the decision Tuesday and will discuss the news on Wednesday’s episode of her show with Oprah Winfrey.

“When you’re a creative person, you constantly need to be challenged – and as great as this show is, and as fun as it is, it’s just not a challenge anymore,” DeGeneres said when explaining the reasoning behind her choice to end the show.

People on social media have, of course, taken issue with that statement. Many noted that the decision comes now that DeGeneres has fallen out of much of the public’s favor.

Last summer, several people made claims about DeGeneres’ alleged cold or rude demeanor as others began criticizing her old interviews. Buzzfeed then published a report with allegations of a toxic workplace culture, which included sexual harassment, racism, and intimidation claims, among other things.

Plans Were in Motion for Some Time, DeGeneres Said

Still, DeGeneres said ending the show now was always the plan. She actually said she wanted to stop after Season 16, and her wife Portia de Rossi had also been urging her to move on.

Executives behind the show, however, pushed for four additional year and they ultimately settled on three, with DeGeneres knowing that season 19 would be her last.

In the article, she specifically addresses the summer allegations saying, “It almost impacted the show. It was very hurtful to me. I mean, very. But if I was quitting the show because of that, I wouldn’t have come back this season. So, it’s not why I’m stopping.

She also framed the claims about her character as “ridiculous,” saying they attacked everything she stands for and destroyed her.

As far as the toxic workplace allegations, DeGeneres said she learned of them through the press and didn’t want to believe them at first.

“So, there was an internal investigation, obviously, and we learned some things but this culture we’re living is [is one where] no one can make mistakes,” she added.

“And I don’t want to generalize because there are some bad people out there and those people shouldn’t work again but, in general, the culture today is one where you can’t learn and grow, which is, as human beings, what we’re here to do. And I can see people looking at that going, ‘You don’t care about what people [went through.]’ I care tremendously. It broke my heart when I learned that people here had anything other than a fantastic experience.”

See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (CNN) (Fox News)

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Seth Rogen Says He Has No Plans To Work With James Franco “Right Now” Following Sexual Misconduct Allegations

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  • In an interview with Britain’s Sunday Times, actor Seth Rogen was asked about his relationship with longtime collaborator James Franco, who has been accused of misconduct and sexually exploitative behavior by multiple women. 
  • In response to claims that Rogen was Franco’s enabler, he said, “What I can say is that I despise abuse and harassment, and I would never cover or conceal the actions of someone doing it, or knowingly put someone in a situation where they were around someone like that. 
  • He also expressed regret over a 2014 joke he made on “Saturday Night Live,” which many felt trivialized Franco’s inappropriate communication with a 17-year-old. 
  • “I also look back to that interview in 2018 where I comment that I would keep working with James, and the truth is that I have not and I do not plan to right now,” he added.

Seth Rogen Addresses James Franco Controversies

Actor and comedian Seth Rogen was asked about his relationship with fellow film star James Franco in a new interview with Britain’s Sunday Times.

Franco and Rogen are friends and longtime collaborators who’ve done hit films together, including “Pineapple Express,” “The Disaster Artist,” “The Interview,” and “Sausage Party,” among others.

In 2014, Franco was exposed for trying to pick up a 17-year-old through Instagram direct messages. In 2018, five women publicly accused him of inappropriate and sexually exploitative behavior, which he denied. Two of those women, who were students at an acting school he ran, then filed a lawsuit against him and agreed to a settlement this year.

Throughout these controversies, Rogen has faced a ton of backlash for continuing to show Franco support.

Last month, actress Charlyne Yi took to Instagram to open up about her experience working on “The Disaster Artist,” accusing Franco of being a “predator” and Rogen of being his “enabler.”

When asked about that specific claim, Rogen said, “What I can say is that I despise abuse and harassment, and I would never cover or conceal the actions of someone doing it, or knowingly put someone in a situation where they were around someone like that.”

No Current Plans To Work Together

Rogen also expressed regret over a 2014 joke he made on “Saturday Night Live,” which many felt trivialized Franco’s inappropriate communication with the 17-year-old.

“It was a terrible joke, honestly. And I also look back to that interview in 2018 where I comment that I would keep working with James, and the truth is that I have not and I do not plan to right now,” he continued.

When asked how Franco’s scandals have impacted their relationship, Rogen said, “I can say it, um, you know, it has changed many things in our relationship and our dynamic.”

Still, he noted that changes are “not as painful and difficult as it is for a lot of other people involved. I have no pity for myself in this situation.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (Huff Post) (The Sunday Times)

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