Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett interview: ‘Big Mouth’
When the decision was made to add a transgender character for the fourth season of “Big Mouth,” executive producers Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett had only begun to become aware of what young trans people go through. “At that time, we had kids who were in high school, so we were becoming more and more aware of trans kids in our orbit and in our kid’s orbit and it felt like representation that we really should have in ‘Big Mouth,'” Flackett tells Gold Derby in our Meet the Experts: Television Animation panel (watch the exclusive video interview above). They decided to incorporate the new character, Natalie, using the summer camp which would introduce several new characters. They also cast trans actress, Josie Totah, as the character. “We were doing our casting process and we knew it was going to be a trans actress, that was never in doubt, and Josie is so special, so it was very easy. There are those things that come out quickly and that was one of them.”
“Big Mouth,” which streams on Netflix, centers around a group of middle schoolers who are going through the ravages of puberty. The two central characters, Nick (voiced by co-creator Nick Kroll) and Andrew (John Mulaney) are based on Kroll and Andrew Goldberg from when they were friends as kids. In the show’s first two seasons, it managed to break into the Emmy race on several levels. The show’s been nominated for Best Animated Program the past two years and last year it scored wins for Best Derivative Interactive Program (“Big Mouth Guide to Life”) and Best Character Voice-Over Performance for Maya Rudolph.
Even though there wasn’t a ceremony for them to attend, Levin remembers Rudolph’s win very clearly. “We were recording that day with Maya. We immediately texted Maya, ‘You won the Emmy! That’s amazing,’ and she said, ‘Oh, I forgot it was tonight!’” Rudolph actually won two Emmys that night with the other coming in the Comedy Guest Actress category for playing Kamala Harris on “Saturday Night Live,” but Flackett made sure to clarify, “Ours was her first trophy!” Levin added, “I hope she gets the opportunity to accept one in person sometime. That is an iconic role and she gets funnier and funnier and makes it more rich and complex all the time.”
“Big Mouth” has also been fortunate to have an amazing array of guest stars make appearances on the show. Flackett is especially fond of Kristen Wiig’s performance as Jessie’s vagina. “Every year we have her back because she’s so wonderful and we feel that her representation of the vagina could not be better and every time she comes we get such a thrill.” While Levin loved having people like Seth Rogen, John Oliver and Thandiwe Newton come on for guest roles, Flackett had another one that left her in disbelief: Paul Giamatti voicing a piece of poop that’s clogging Andrew’s bowels. “Paul Giamatti was very special. We were like, we can’t believe we got him for that. That was amazing.”