Kristen Bell will no longer voice the character of Molly Tillerman, a mixed race character with a black father and a white mother on Apple TV’s upcoming ‘Central Park’ series.
Bell’s exit comes after creator Loren Bouchard defended Bell’s casting back in January at the Television Critics Association winter press tour.
As reported by Variety, Bouchard stated, “Kirsten needed to be Molly; we couldn’t not make her Molly.”
He added, “But then we couldn’t make Molly white and we couldn’t make Kristen mixed race so we just had to go forward. And then we arrived there and said, ‘Well.. we gotta just keep doing the best we can to balance, to turn around and give somebody the opportunity who wasn’t getting it… A commitment to diversity isn’t some odd job, it’s a commitment to making stuff better.”
Bouchard then explained that he relied on Central Park actor and executive producer Josh Gad on the casting list.
Bouchard detailed, “We cast first — in this case, it was building a bunch of characters around [Josh Gad]. We just said, ‘Who are your friends? Who do you want to work with? Who’s going to come to work? Who’s going to make themselves available?'”
He then detailed the cast list, “And he had this incredibly exciting list of people. And it was very obvious… Leslie Odom Jr. had to be the dad. Kathryn Han had to be the mom. Kristen had to be a daughter. Tituss [Burgess] had to be a son. Those characters were sort of obvious, and then we just had this problem.”
Bouchard continued to defend the casting of Bell saying, “It’s not ideal, but [Bell] is the ideal actress for that part.”
He would later state, “We have a responsibility to do two things… One, it’s good to have not just a bunch of dudes making stuff. ”
“It makes the show better if you don’t have a bunch of dudes. Diversity makes stuff better. You will be exposed to a new idea, you’ll avoid a trap, you’ll avoid a cliché if you have a bunch of different voices in the room, whether that’s the writers’ room, whether that’s artists, whether that’s production, whether that’s in the cast… Secondarily, you don’t want to get to the end of the road, in old age, look back and say, ‘We could’ve done better,'” he added.
However, a few short months later and now Bell is out of the role of Molly Tillerman.
Bouchard, Josh Gad, Nora Smith, Halsted Sullivan, and Sanjay Shah issued a statement explaining why Bell would no longer be part of the show.
It begins, “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 statement continues, “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.”
They do indicate that Bell will remain a part of the show, “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.”
They then issued a statement of regret, “We profoundly regret that we might have contributed to anyone’s feeling of exclusion or erasure.“
The statement then 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.”
They concluded, “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.”
It’s unclear if Central Park will also recast Stanley Tucci and Daveed Diggs’ roles. The two male actors currently voice women’s roles.
What do you make of Central Park’s decision to remove Bell from the role of Molly Tillerman?