The decision to replace Kristen Bell with an actor of colour on acclaimed animated comedy Central Park was “the only move” to make, creator and star Josh Gad has said.
Bell, who is white, stepped down from the role of voicing Molly, who is mixed-race, last year.
She has been replaced in the second season of Apple TV+’s Central Park with Umbrella Academy star Emmy Raver-Lampman.
The switch came amid a re-evaluation of white actors voicing characters of colour, which resulted in similar moves on animated shows such as The Simpsons and Big Mouth.
Gad, the co-creator of Central Park and voice of narrator Birdie, said producers had no doubts about making the decision to replace his Frozen co-star Bell.
“The conversation was that it was the only move,” he told the PA news agency.
“And nobody was more supportive of that than my friend and collaborator on many things Kristen Bell. Emmy was an absolute gift from the universe.
“The first time we heard her, we just knew the impossible was possible. Which was that we could not only continue to tell incredible stories with this character of Molly, but do it in a way that feels like you’re not hearing a completely different character. ”
Gad said as a woman of colour Raver-Lampman was able to bring an authenticity to the role of Molly, a biracial teenager who lives in Manhattan.
He said: “It’s somebody who feels as lived in as season one but someone who is bringing experiences that only she could bring to the role. And it has made it so unbelievably lived in and so unbelievably, brilliantly realised.
“I think that Molly is actually my favourite character in season two now. And it helps that she has some incredible episodes that revolve around her.”
Musical comedy Central Park arrived on the Apple TV+ streaming service in May last year and won critical acclaim for its writing and soundtrack.
It features the Tillerman–Hunter family, who are fighting to save the New York green space from an unscrupulous heiress.
Each episode usually contains around four original songs performed by the star-studded cast, which includes Daveed Diggs, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr and Stanley Tucci.
Gad commended the cast and crew for producing season two from home during the pandemic.
“It just evolved and took on a new life,” he said of working remotely. “And at first it was really scary, but we have such a self-assured group that I am proud to call my collaborators on this, that it just became an effortless process the longer we went.”
Gad added: “And even though it was difficult, they never questioned that we could accomplish the impossible.”
The first three episodes of Central Park season two are streaming on Apple TV+ now, with new episodes premiering weekly every Friday.