Hours after Jenny Slate quit voicing a Black character on Netflix series Big Mouth, Kristen Bell has similarly stepped away from voicing a mixed-race character on the Apple TV+ show Central Park. According to Variety, Bell will portray a different character on the animated series moving forward.
Bell has been voicing one of the show’s main characters, Molly Tillerman, daughter of Owen (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Paige (Kathryn Hahn) Tillerman. Tituss Burgess has been voicing Molly’s brother, Cole.
Variety reported that the series would re-cast the part with a Black actress.
Bell’s new character has not yet been announced either. However, it is likely the change will not be implemented until later in the first season or possibly in the show’s second season, which Deadline reported had been given the green light more than two years ago.
In a statement released by Central Park‘s creative team, it was said 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.”
Variety shared the entirety of the statement in full.
The creative team expressed that it “can do better,” and is “committed to creating opportunities for people of color and Black people in all roles, on all our projects — behind the mic, in the writers room, in production, and in post-production.”
“Animation will be stronger for having as many voices, experiences, and perspectives as we can possibly bring into the industry.”
The decision to re-cast Molly denotes a change of heart from creator Loren Bouchard’s previous remarks about casting. In January, during a Central Park panel, Bouchard said that Bell “needed” to be Molly and that his team “couldn’t not make her Molly.” He explained that they could not change Molly or Bell’s race, so they “just had to go forward.”
The reaction to the decision to recast Molly’s role with another actress has been met with a mixed response on social media. Some people feel that things have gone “too far” and that actors are “acting” and should be able to play who they want.
Others appreciated the move but were still disappointed that Bell was cast in the first place.
The Frozen voice actress also shared a copy of the statement on her Instagram page and apologized for her complicity in accepting the role.
Central Park is currently streaming new episodes every Friday on Apple TV+. Alongside the actors mentioned above, the series also features voice acting from Josh Gad, Daveed Diggs, and Stanley Tucci.