Kristen Bell will no longer voice the mixed-race central character of Molly Tillerman in the forthcoming Apple animated series Central Park. 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.
Slate posted an announcement to Instagram today, stating that she will no longer voice her Big Mouth character, Missy, who is Black. “At the start of the show, I reasoned with myself that it was permissible for me to play ‘Missy’ because her mom is Jewish and White — as am I. But ‘Missy’ is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people,” she wrote.
The series’ producing team of Loren Bouchard, Josh Gad, Nora Smith, Halstead Sullivan and Sanjay Shah made the announcement, saying in a statement, “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, 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.
Following the announcement, Bell added her thoughts in an Instagram post: “Playing the character of Molly on Central Park shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege. Casting a mixed-race character with a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed-race and Black American experience. It was wrong and we, on the Central Park team, are pledging to make it right. I am happy to relinquish this role to someone who can give a much more accurate portrayal and I will commit to learning, growing and doing my part for equality and inclusion.”
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.