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Though barely any TV shows have gone back into production mode at this point, lots of projects are still making moves behind the scenes, though not always in the most predictable ways. Following Jenny Slate's exit from her voice-acting role on Netflix's popular animated series Big Mouth, it was announced that The Good Place vet Kristen Bell would be stepping back from voicing the main character Molly in Apple TV+'s musical comedy Central Park.
Similarly to the Big Mouth situation, Kristen Bell's exit is tied to the fact that Central Park's Molly is a biracial character, while Bell herself is a white woman. The actress explained her reasoning in a post on Instagram, saying:
This is a time to acknowledge our acts of complicity. Here is one of mine. 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 made its debut on Apple TV+ back at the end of May, but had been in development with the principal cast intact since March 2018. Once more and more people became aware of the show's narrative prior to release, certain conversations did focus on the potentially questionable choice of casting Kristen Bell to play a mixed-race character. Obviously, though, not a lot of turmoil came out of it, and Bell earned a fair amount of praise for her comedic and musical performances.
With a growing push throughout Hollywood to fully embrace equality and diversity on all levels, however, many projects past and present are facing scrutiny. Following a variety of TV shows having episodes pulled for featuring white characters wearing blackface – from Little Britain to 30 Rock – Jenny Slate made waves by opting to vacate her role of Missy Foreman-Greenwald. To be expected, the decision was met with both applause and derision, with those opposed to the change using "Bart Simpson is voiced by a woman" as a main argument for why voice-acting shouldn't adhere to live-action standards. (Non-incidentally, Bob's Burgers and Central Park have also faced criticism for using male actors for female roles.)
To be sure, Kristen Bell won't be leaving Central Park altogether. While the executive producers will be seeking out a new actress to play Molly in Season 2, a new character will be created for the show for Bell to take on. Check out the actress' post below, which also includes the official statement from Central Park's creative team.
For those who might not be aware, Central Park is the latest animated comedy created by Bob's Burgers mastermind Loren Bouchard, alongside co-creators Nora Smith and Josh Gad. It centers on the Tillerman-Hunter family, who reside in a castle in the middle of Central Park, and their struggles once a wealthy heiress makes it her intention to buy up the park land and turn it into commercial properties. The parents Owen and Page, are respectively voiced by Leslie Odom Jr. and Katheryn Hahn, while their children, Cole and Molly, have been voiced by Tituss Burgess and Kristen Bell.
With Kristen Bell's voice still in place as Molly, and seemingly no plans to retcon it, Central Park Season 1 can currently be streamed in full on Apple TV+. To see what other new and returning shows will be hitting the small screen soon, head to our Summer 2020 TV premiere schedule.