Last summer, Netflix comedy Big Mouth emerged as a leader in the world of animation after deciding to recast a key role for a more authentic performance. In June, actress Jenny Slate announced she was stepping down from the half-black, half-Jewish character named Missy, and two months later it was revealed that Ayo Edebiri would take over the role.
On Saturday the co-creator EPs Mark Levin, Andrew Goldberg and Jennifer Flackett as well as the co-EP Kelly Galuska appeared for a virtual panel as part of the USC Comedy Festival and discussed their time with the show and how the new version of Missy came about.
“It’s actually very complex because Missy has grown as a mixed breed figure over the course of several seasons,” said Levin [a lot of that] was driven by the black writers of our staff. “
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During production for the series’ first four seasons, Slate “always had questions and hesitations,” he added, “as to whether it is appropriate to portray a character who … presents and thus identifies himself to the world as black. “
At the end of season 4 production, he continued what ended around the time of George Floyd’s assassination: “We all agreed that the time was right to make the change.”
Ultimately, Edebiri would take on the speaking role of Slate in “Horrority House,” the penultimate episode of season 4. “We had already explored Missy’s journey deeply, her own awakening to her black identity and then her struggle with herself. In the ninth episode, she’s in a funhouse and sees all the different versions of herself and she breaks. She’s putting a mosaic together, and that mosaic by Missy comes to life, and this is the moment [where] We exchange ideas, ”said Levin. “It was a combination of events that led to a moment that we were already exploring, but when we decided to change the casting we found that this was the perfect moment for this handover.”
From Goldberg’s point of view, the handover was an “interesting process” as Edebiri was already a writer on the show before he got to Big Mouth’s voice. “We auditioned a lot of actors to play Missy. In the end, Ayo felt right and maybe had a leg up because she was in the writers’ room and part of all these conversations about how Missy was going to play out, ”he said. “But I think it also has a lot to do with who she is as a person and as a writer because I think she identified with Missy, who is growing up, and there’s something about Missy that can’t be faked. “
The Big Mouth team will continue to strive to achieve an authentic representation both on screen and behind the scenes. “We know we have to have many different perspectives at the table,” said Levin.
In conversation with USC professor JD Connor, the Big Mouth creatives also touched on the fifth season, which is set to make its debut this year. While few specific details were offered, Levin noted that the upcoming season “will learn a little more about children getting involved in politics and getting political”.
At the same time, Flackett noted that the show will never be very timely in its comedy. “We take a long time to make a season so current humor is really, really hard,” she said. “You can do something about political identity, like, ‘I’m a Republican, I’m a Democrat, I am whatever,’ but I don’t think we can do anything [more specific]. Because we want the world to feel a bit timeless anyway. “
Big Mouth was created by Flackett, Goldberg, Levin and Nick Kroll and follows a line of teenagers whose lives have been shaped by the wonders and horrors of puberty. Before the fifth season debut, the musical comedy was already extended for a sixth season. Throughout the run, the series garnered four Emmy nominations, and last year star Maya Rudolph won one in the Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance category.