Loren Bouchard, creator of the animated comedies Bob’s Burgers and Apple’s forthcoming Central Park, knows it isn’t a great practice to have men voicing female characters, but he told reporters Sunday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour that sometimes it can’t be helped.
In Central Park — launching this summer on TV+ — Daveed Diggs and Stanley Tucci both voice female characters, while Kristen Bell lends her voice to the central family’s mixed-race daughter. And on Fox’s mega-hit Bob’s Burgers, John Roberts lends his voice to the character of Linda Belcher (and Bob Mintz voices Linda’s daughter, Tina).
“Animation just makes you want to take this voice and have it come out of this face,” Bouchard said on the final day of the press tour. “Hopefully there’s something about it that makes sense.”
Bouchard, who created Central Park — a comedy about a family who are charged with living in and caring for the park — recalled first hearing Roberts on YouTube and knowing immediately that he needed to be the voice of a female character on Bob’s Burgers. Diggs, in Central Park, he said, was the same thing. “We knew early on it’d be fun to do it and we couldn’t look away once you imagine that. And the same for Stanley playing a little lady with white air like Margaret Thatcher glued onto a little dog,” said Bouchard. “Once you think of that, it’s impossible to not get excited about it.”
Still, Bouchard — who along with executive producer Josh Gad and star Bell raved about the influence musical theater had on them during their formative years — is aware that the practice of handing roles for women to men isn’t particularly great at a time when the industry is making an effort to do better with inclusion onscreen and off.
“Here I am, yet again, taking away two roles for women, and it’s something that I have on my mind all the time to try and keep balancing things,” he said, acknowledging Bell voicing a mixed-race character. “Kristen needed to voice Molly — we couldn’t not make her Molly, and then we couldn’t make Molly white and couldn’t make Kristen mixed-race. Then you arrive there and keep doing it as best you can to turn around and give someone an opportunity who wasn’t getting it. A commitment to diversity isn’t some odd job, it’s a commitment to making it better.”
The voice cast for Central Park includes Gad as the park’s local musician; Kathryn Hahn as the family’s matriarch; Leslie Odom Jr. as the park’s caretaker; and Tituss Burgess as the family’s awkward young son. The series, originally developed for and passed on by Fox, was picked up with a two-season order at Apple amid competition from both Netfilx and Hulu. The latter has streaming rights to Bob’s Burgers, where the animated comedy is one of its most-watched acquired shows.