Kristen Bell Steps Down From Biracial Central Park Role

Kristen Bell announced that she's stepping down from her role as Molly in Apple TV+'s animated Central Park so a Black or biracial actress can be cast.

By Lauren Piester Jun 24, 2020 11:54 PMTags
Kristen Bell, Central Park, MollyMatt Baron/Shutterstock; Apple TV

Just a couple of hours after Jenny Slate announced her exit from Big Mouth, Kristen Bell is stepping down from Central Park

Bell voiced a biracial character named Molly in the Apple TV+ comedy's first season, but will no longer be playing her according to a statement from the show's creative team and from Bell herself.

"This is a time to acknowledge our acts of complicity," she wrote on Instagram, alongside an image of the statement put out by the creative team. "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 atress 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," she concluded. 

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Bell played Molly, the daughter of characters voiced by Kathryn Hahn and Leslie Odom Jr., and her brother is voiced by Tituss Burgess

Co-creator Loren Brouchard, who faced some criticism in January for the casting, posted on Twitter

"My deepest apology for getting this decision wrong originally, and for fumbling through a non-explanation in the press earlier this year. I truly appreciate everyone who reached out to me here to voice concern, anger, frustration—all of it. I'm listening," he wrote. 

The statement from the creative team explained that Bell had been a part of the show from the very first day, before there was even a character for her, 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 experience of the character as we've drawn her. Kristen will continue to be a part of the show in a new role but we will find a new actress to lend her voice to Molly," the statement reads. "We profoundly regret that we might have contributed to anyone's feeling of exclusion or erasure." 

"Black people and people of color have worked and will continue to work on Central Park but we can do better," the statement continued. "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." 

At the show's TCA panel in January, Brouchard commented on the casting choice. 

"Kristen needed to be Molly. We couldn't not make her Molly," he said. "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."

New episodes of Central Park come out Fridays on Apple TV+.