A month after Kristen Bell announced she was stepping down from voicing the mixed-race character Molly in Apple’s animated series ‘Central Park,’ Apple has selected “Hamilton” alumna and “Umbrella Academy” star Emmy Raver-Lampman as her replacement.
She will become the show’s third prominent former “Hamilton” cast member, joining Leslie Odom Jr. (who plays Molly’s father Owen Tillerman) and Daveed Diggs (who voices the assistant to Stanley Tucci’s tyrannical Bitsy Brandenham).
The re-casting comes amid a racial reckoning in the animated space, which has seen multiple white actors stop voicing characters of color.
Bell’s removal from the role was announced in late June via a lengthy statement from the show’s creative team, which said that “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.”
Bell also released her own statement at the time, saying that her voicing the character “shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege.”
“Casting a mixed race character w/a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race & Black American experience,” Bell’s statement read.
On the very same day that the Bell news emerged, Jenny Slate announced she was no longer going to voice the biracial character Missy Foreman-Greenwald on Netflix’s “Big Mouth.” Then, only a couple days later, “Family Guy” star Mike Henry revealed his exit from the role of Cleveland Brown. Henry had voiced the character since 1999, and also played Cleveland and his Black stepson, Rallo Tubbs, on the spin-off series “The Cleveland Show,” which aired on Fox for four seasons between 2009 and 2013.
For a long while, the most high profile example of a white actor voicing a character of color on TV was Apu on “The Simpsons,” who was played for decades by Hank Azaria. Calls for Azaria to stop playing Apu intensified over the last few years after comedian Hari Kondabolu released the documentary “The Problem With Apu” in 2017, and the actor eventually gave in, announcing earlier this year that he will no longer be voicing the character.
“Central Park,” which follows the Tillerman family living in the iconic New York City landmark, hails from “Bob’s Burgers” creator Loren Bouchard, who previously addressed Bell’s casting during a panel in Jan. At that point, it was clear the producers had no intention of re-casting the role.
The A-list “Central Park” cast also includes Josh Gad, Kathryn Hahn, and Tituss Burgess. “Central Park” was originally given a two-season order by Apple.
Raver-Lampman will next be seen in season 2 of “The Umbrella Academy,” which drops July 31 on Netflix. She is represented by WME, Authentic Talent and Literary Management and The Nord Group.
Well, congrats to Emmy on the new gig.