Over the last week, in the wake of a newly energized focus on racial issues across the country, a number of white actors have dropped out of voicing non-white characters on animated shows. Jenny Slate quit voicing Missy on Big Mouth while Kristen Bell stepped down as Molly on Central Park; both roles are biracial, and they will be recast with black performers. For others, it’s too late. Take Alison Brie. She voiced Diane Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American, on BoJack Horseman, which concluded its six season run earlier this year. Now, as caught by ComicBook.com, she’s saying she regrets taking the role.
“In hindsight, I wish that I didn’t voice the character of Diane Nguyen,” the actress wrote in an Instagram post. She continued:
“I now understand that people of color, should always voice people of color. We missed a great opportunity to represent the Vietnamese-American community accurately and respectfully, and for that I am truly sorry. I applaud all those who stepped away from their voiceover roles in recent days. I have learned a lot from them.”
On BoJack Horseman, Diane served as, alternately, a ghost writer, a love interest, an enemy, and a close friend to the show’s washed-up, alcoholic, struggling sentient horse, even as she battled her own demons and issues. Creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg has spoken about his regrets over casting a white performer for voice a Vietnamese-American, and he did so again last week over a Twitter thread.
“In the first few seasons of BoJack, I was asked about the casting of Diane a few times on twitter and reddit but I evaded the question, mostly because my own understanding of the issue was evolving (it still is!) and I didn’t want to give a defensive or half-thought-out answer,” he wrote. He said that for a while he thought he could rationalize it, but “the more I thought about it (and listened to other people) the more I felt like it WASN’T okay.”
“Even in the small ways we wrote to Diane’s experience as a woman of color, or more specifically an Asian woman, we rarely got specific enough to think about what it meant to be SPECIFICALLY VIETNAMESE-AMERICAN and that was a huge (racist!) error on my part. … The intention behind the character is I wanted to write AWAY from stereotypes and create an Asian American character who wasn’t defined solely by her race. But I went too far in the other direction. We are all defined SOMEWHAT by our race! Of course we are! It is part of us!”