Shortly after it was announced that Jenny Slate would step away from the role of Missy on Netflix’s Big Mouth, Kristen Bell has revealed that she will also depart from her role as Molly, a mixed race character, on Apple TV+’s animated series Central Park. Like Slate, Bell is a white actress and revealed her intention to step aside from her biracial character on social media.
On Instagram, Bell wrote, “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.”
Bell went on to add, “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.”
Bell’s statement accompanied another statement, which was also shared by Josh Gad, which read, “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.” The statement also revealed that Bell will receive a new role on the series, while Molly will be recast, and that the show will be, “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.”
Series creator Loren Bouchard previously discussed Bell’s casting for the role of Molly at January’s Television Critics Association Winter Tour. While discussing the casting of Stanley Tucci and Daveed Diggs as female characters on the show, Helen and Bitsy, Bouchard said at the time, “We’re always trying to both honor the urge to fool around and have fun with animation, and also just balance that sh– out. Get women of color in the cast, in the writers’ room, so that you feel at least that you’re always giving into the urge because you think there’s something there, some spark, something. She’s gonna honor that character. Kristen needed to be Molly — like, we couldn’t not make her Molly — 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 you arrive there and you say, ‘Well, what do we do now?’ You gotta just keep doing as best you can to balance, to turn around and give someone an opportunity who wasn’t getting it. And for me it’s just a commitment, and it’s selfish too, by the way. A commitment to diversity isn’t some job, it’s a commitment to making your stuff better.”
Central Park premiered on Apple TV+ in May.