After a full season and 13 episodes, Kristen Bell won’t return as the voice actress for Molly, a mixed race character on the Apple+ series Central Park. Bell will be replaced by a black or “mixed race” actress, according to the show’s creators.
Central Park’s creators — Loren Bouchard, Josh Gad, Nora Smith, Halsted Sullivan, and Sanjay Shah — issued a statement regarding their decision to make race a factor in hiring a voice actress:
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.
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.
Kristin Bell accused herself of “complicity” and “lack of awareness” of her “pervasive privilege” as a white actress via Twitter.
“This is a time to acknowledge our acts of complicity. Heres 1 of mine. Playing the Molly in Central Park shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege,” the Frozen star said. “Casting a mixed race character w/a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race & 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. pic.twitter.com/k8N73pAXOw
— Kristen Bell (@KristenBell) June 25, 2020
Bell’s exit comes as actress Jenny Slate’s exit from Netflix’s animated series Big Mouth. Slate voiced the bi-racial character Missy and said as a white woman, she was exercising her “white privilege” and promoting the “erasure of Black people.”
Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter.