Big Mouth has named its new Missy, with comedian Ayo Edebiri stepping in after Jenny Slate decided to step back earlier this year. Edebiri (who has also joined the show’s writers’ room for Season 5) will be first heard playing the character in the penultimate episode of Season 4, because thanks to the magic of animation, the folks making Big Mouth were well into the production process on the upcoming season when the decision was made.
In fact, even as the pandemic quarantine continues, creators Andrew Goldberg and Nick Kroll have continued working on the animated series about the very real issues that very young teenagers face while growing up today. Though Goldberg has taken to working out of his pool house, because “I have a seven-year-old and a nine-year-old. And when I work at home, they’re like, ‘Wow, dad curses all day long.’”
I spoke with Goldberg and Kroll prior to today’s announcement of Edebiri’s casting, but they were able to sing her praises in a vague sense, while also explaining why they picked the Season 3 episode “Disclosure the Movie: The Musical!” to be the episode ultimately nominated for an Emmy this year. Below they also tease a little bit of what to expect in Season 4, discuss how young is too young to watch this show, and reveal whether Antoni from Queer Eye did his own seagull noises.
In terms of casting, one thing I’m sure you guys have talked about a fair amount is the decision to have Jenny Slate step back from doing Missy. In terms of the production process, have you guys found somebody?
GOLDBERG: Yes. We found somebody awesome and we’re announcing her very soon.
What was that process like?
KROLL: I think the process was an interesting one because in a way, normally when you’re casting, especially our show, so many of the people we cast on Big Mouth are friends of mine, who I collaborate with a lot. And as the show expanded, we went out to other types of folks who were just great actors. But we went through the normal casting process with casting directors, but also opened it up to people who were submitting off of Twitter, off of Instagram and really listening and taking a lot of those people into consideration like we would consider that any kind of the normal casting process where agents or whoever submit it.
So I feel like we really got to see a broad range of people, but our goal was to pick someone for the role who would pay proper respect to what we had built with Jenny in the case of Missy, but also have the opportunity to make it their own and bring the new. The beauty of doing a show about puberty and kids changing is that we just seeded the natural evolution of the character, just like all of our characters evolve. All of our characters are changing and evolving. And this is just another example of that.
I love the fact that you guys looked at the people who were basically putting themselves out there on Twitter, because I saw a lot of those people commenting, and there were some people who seemed like they would be really good fits for the character.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. Totally. I think Missy is a character that makes a lot of people feel very seen. And I think people are passionate about her. And you could tell that by how everybody had their opinion about who they knew would be great at it. And people just submitting themselves. We listened to a lot of those, too.
It seems like you have a habit of having seasons done well in advance of when you need to get them done. Is there something in particular that you’ve managed to figure out that makes that possible?
GOLDBERG: Well, yeah. We stay on schedule, but then there’s the thing about how our show is made is that the innovation takes so long to really write it way ahead of time, especially for when it comes out. But then with Netflix, there’s also this thing where, it’s not like a network show where you deliver it on a Wednesday and then it airs it on a Sunday. And you’re kind of going along. We deliver a whole season before it airs, and Netflix, they translate it into 20 languages before it comes out. But they have their whole localization process. You want to get it to them with enough time for them to go to all that.
Do you get involved in the localization process at all?
KROLL: Yeah, I was curious because I think most people don’t, but I was still curious what voices they would use in Japan or Poland. And so you’d hear the auditions for Coach Steve. Then you’d hear like, “Boy, what do Japanese people think that stupid man sounds like?” Or for the Italians… When Season 1 came out, I was in Argentina shooting a movie and I went to Brazil Comic-Con, and I got to meet the Brazilian guys who voice Nick and Andrew in Portuguese. And it was fun. It’s cool that you realize so many people are watching the show in their native tongues dub. And a lot of people watch it in English with subtitles. We were engaged more early on and now we kind of trust that it’s all kind of moving along. There’s plenty for us to do, to not micromanage that element of it.
Are there any local actors who have been able to do all of the voices that you do, Nick?
KROLL: You know, I don’t know if anybody is capable of that. I’m of course joking. And realizing as this will be in print, there’s no way for the sarcasm to be communicated in it. I don’t know. I’m not sure if other people can be multiple voices. I’m not sure. I don’t know. My guess is probably not, but maybe there are countries where people are doing multiple things. We always had a fantasy of doing a super cut of Italian mix, Spanish while the Turkish, Maury interrupt and sort of cap and hearing a bunch of the different ones that we … Again, we end up just sort of having to focus on keeping the show moving.
So one thing about the Emmys is the fact that when it comes to the best animated series category, the shows are nominated for a specific episode. What was the process like in terms of going for the Emmy nomination and picking “Disclosure the Movie: The Musical!” to be the episode that was ultimately nominated?
GOLDBERG: I think in terms of why we chose Disclosure, there’s always like a conversation. It’s like, what’s your favorite? I mean, one thing that I like so much for “Disclosure,” it’s the whole cast’s show. It’s like a big ensemble. There’s a big song with the whole cast at the beginning.
And then I also just always found it so fun because we always wanted to do a school play episode. And early on, Nick pitched this. He was like, “It should be a really inappropriate play, like ‘Disclosure: The Musical’ or something.” And then we spent like an afternoon pitching on what else it might be, and in the end we’re like, “No, it should be Disclosure: The Musical,” which I always enjoy when we tell kind of mature stories, but through the lens of what it’s like when you’re still a kid. And I think we’ve got a way to use “Disclosure: The Musical,” the sexual harassment story and the theater story and kind of a love triangle story, all in one. That’s why it’s one of my favorite episodes. And also you get the Queer Eye guys and Coach Steve, which is super fun.
Of course. On the surface, too, when I first saw it on the list, I was like, “Oh, it’s a somewhat less political episode than ‘The Planned Parenthood Show’ [for which Big Mouth was nominated last year].” But as you describe it, it’s clear it’s got real heft to it.
GOLDBERG: Disclosure historically came out after the Clarence Thomas hearings. And then we wrote this episode timeline after the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, where it really did feel like a very sort of potent weirdly timely idea, this sort of flawed notion that the real danger of sexual harassment, that women are going to use it as a weapon.
KROLL: Yeah. And I think this was the first season that we were writing. This was the first season we were writing after Time’s Up, and so it felt like this would be an interesting way to explore it. And also Missy’s journey as far as being effectually aggressive or you’re stepping in more to the sexuality, and being somewhat unapologetic about it. And it felt weirdly like a very interesting place to explore all that.
In terms of the writing, I’m curious what the writing process is like. I know that Emily Altman and Victor Quinaz are the credited writers. Does your writer’s room work in a way where they really drove the episode?
GOLDBERG: Yeah. I mean, Victor and Emily both were theater kids growing up, as everybody I know likes that. And almost everybody on our writing staff was super obsessed with Queer Eye and for us meeting those guys was so fun. Yeah. I mean, it’s a super-collaborative process on our show where we really do figure out this story and write it and rewrite it together. But those two did a terrific job of really driving the story, both putting their theater kid background into it and then also their passion for a Coach Steve makeover.
In terms of the Queer Eye crossover, honestly, I just have one specific question — did Antoni make his own bird call noises?
KROLL: Yeah, he did. When you write for people, you don’t always know what you’re going to get. And in the case of Antoni, we wrote it and we were like, “We’ll see if he can call.” And he really committed. He really brought the hook. He brought the heat. He also did fall in love with a bird.
So it seems a lot of Netflix shows are in this place where there’s a question about should a season be really episodic or should it just be one long story? There’s a whole spectrum of ways you can go about that. And one thing I really like about Big Mouth is that you can look at the name of an episode and know almost immediately, “Oh, it’s the one where [blank] happens.” So in the writing process, what are you trying to do in terms of balancing that?
GOLDBERG: Yeah, for me, this is the most real-life show that I’ve ever worked on. But yeah, you do have that nice thing where each episode is enclosed. But especially with relationships, we really carry those across episodes. In my experiences, it’s very creative and more challenging, but also fulfilling, especially emotionally with the relationships where if you’re building things across episodes and across seasons, they’re more impactful when they do happen.
KROLL: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. And the Netflix model encourages that. They want more serialization so that their viewers want to check in for the next episode. And what I think we’ve tried to do is balance that serialization with bigger tent pole topics that we are interested in exploring specifically for what it’s like. Season 3 really was a focus on what it was like for kids today. There’s a lot of stuff, like Nick has an addiction to his phone, the grappling with sexual harassment in Disclosure.
Season 1 is kind of a nostalgic look back at your neighbor’s childhood a bit. And Season 2 was a real deep dive into shame. So I think we have both the stories that we want to tell for our characters and kids. And then we also simultaneously have the larger ideas that we want to explore. All the different versions of it is what I think make it so gratifying for us to work on the show and keep telling these stories.
Excellent. You mentioned something. You mentioned the show’s audience. At this point, when people tell you, “Oh, my ten-year-old watches Big Mouth.” What’s your reaction?
GOLDBERG: Well I get a lot of people asking me, “Can my child watch Big Mouth?” And I always just share with them what our plan is: I have a seven year old and a nine year old. And the deal that we have is that when they’re the same age as the kids on the show and they’re going through the same things, then they get to watch it. So I plan for 12 or 13, but it’s always so personal, what you want your kid to watch and what you think they’re not ready for.
But it’s gratifying that the sixth and seventh graders at my kid’s school, when they find out what I do, they’re excited and they feel very passionate about the show because there aren’t a lot of shows on that kind of show them what they’re going through, in an honest way that really resonates with them. So that’s exciting.
KROLL: Totally. What I have found is, and again, I think Andrew’s point with his kids is good, which is that when your kid’s at the age of the kids on our show, it’s a fair thing because they’re all going through the stuff that our kids are sort of also going through.
I remember my sister has a daughter who is a little younger than 12. I think last year she let her watch the Valentine’s episode. And my sister was like, you can watch it, Because she has older brothers. She’s like, “You can watch it, but you have to have five questions from the episode that you write down to share with me afterwards for us to talk about.”
I think we obviously first and foremost want to make something that’s funny and entertaining, but we’re also very aware of the messaging of the show and we take it very seriously. And while we don’t have, I don’t think, an agenda as to the morality that we’re trying to put out there, we are aware that there are lessons to be absorbed and try to be responsive to that.
GOLDBERG: I remember when your niece had those questions, Nick. They were cool. They weren’t like, “What’s this sex joke? What’s this sex joke?” They were more about the relationships. It was more about “if Andrew liked Missy so much, why did he treat her this way?” And so I think it was, in a way, not quite what your sister expected.
There’s definitely plenty of people who watch the show because they just like the crazy jokes about sex and masturbating. But I think our hope is what keeps people watching and the emotional investment that people make into our characters.
To wrap things, is there anything you’re really excited for people to see in Season 4 that you can talk about?
GOLDBERG: Well, one thing we can say is that where Season 3 ended, we were going off to summer. And we’re going to pick up continuously there with Season 4. We’ve never shown summer yet on our show, which is exciting. Also, Season 4 is, again, a little bit like Season 2, we’ve seen as another sort of deep dive dramatically into a sort of emotional state.
KROLL: I don’t know when the trailer drops. But we have a very fun group of guest stars on the show and an insane group of people joining us.
Big Mouth Season 4 will premiere this fall on Netflix.