Central Park to recast Kristen Bell's biracial character with Black actress
Central Park is the latest TV series to reckon with a casting choice.
On Wednesday, soon after Jenny Slate announced that her biracial character on Big Mouth will be recast with a Black actress, the team behind Central Park declared their intention to recast the character of Molly, a biracial teen voiced by white actress Kristen Bell.
Bell will continue with the show in a new role, but Molly will be portrayed by a Black or multiracial actress. Sources tell EW this has been in the works for some time.
"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," the creative team of Loren Bouchard, Josh Gad, Nora Smith, Halsted Sullivan, and Sanjay Shah said in a statement. "But after reflection, Kristen, along with the entire creative team, recognizes 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," the statement continued. "Black people and people of color have worked and will continue to work on Central Park but we can do better. We're 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. 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."
Co-creator Gad previously told EW that Bell was his first phone call when assembling the cast. "My first call was to my friend and colleague Kristen Bell, who I'd had such an incredible time working with on Frozen, and felt like the breadth of her skill in terms of singing hadn't yet been explored to its fullest potential, even in the Frozen films," he said.
The character of Molly is part of the show's central family that oversees the titular park, alongside dad Owen (Leslie Odom Jr.), mom Paige (Kathryn Hahn), and brother Cole (Tituss Burgess). As the Tillerman family fights to save Central Park from a crazed heiress, Molly also wrestles with her first crush and expresses her feelings by drawing a comic book featuring herself as a superhero.
Central Park is currently available on AppleTV+.