Kristen Bell will no longer voice the mixed-race central character of Molly Tillerman in the forthcoming Apple animated series Central Park.
The decision to re-cast the role was announced via a lengthy statement from the show’s creative team, which said that “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.”
Creator Loren Bouchard previously addressed the casting during a panel in January, at which point there was clearly no intention to re-cast the role.
“Kristen needed to be Molly; we couldn’t not make her Molly. But then we couldn’t make Molly white and we couldn’t make Kristen mixed race so we just had to go forward,” Bouchard said at the time.
News of the re-casting comes mere hours after Jenny Slate announced that she was stepping away from voicing a biracial character on Netflix’s Big Mouth.
Read the full statement from Bouchard, Josh Gad, Nora Smith, Halsted Sullivan and Sanjay Shah below:
“Kristen Bell is an extraordinarily talented actress who joined the cast of Central Park from nearly the first day of the show’s development — before there was even a character for her to play – and she has since delivered a funny, heartfelt, and beautiful performance.
But after reflection, Kristen, along with the entire creative team, recognises 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. Kristen will continue to be a part of the heart of the show in a new role but we will find a new actress to lend her voice to Molly.
We profoundly regret that we might have contributed to anyone’s feeling of exclusion or erasure.
Black people and people of colour have worked and will continue to work on Central Park but we can do better. We’re committed to creating opportunities for people of colour 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. Our shop and our show will be better for respecting the nuances and complexity around the issue of representation and trying to get it right.”
Central Park is currently five episodes into its first season run. Its voice cast also includes Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Kathryn Hahn, Tituss Burgess, Daveed Diggs and Stanley Tucci.