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Emmy Raver-Lampman: 'Central Park' opening doors for diversity in animation

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“Central Park” Season 3 premieres Thursday. Image courtesy of Apple TV+
“Central Park” Season 3 premieres Thursday. Image courtesy of Apple TV+

NEW YORK, Sept. 9 (UPI) -- Hamilton and The Umbrella Academy actress Emmy Raver-Lampman says she jumped at the chance to lend her voice to Molly in the animated musical-comedy, Central Park, because the middle-school student depicted is part of a quirky, affectionate and functional biracial family.

The fact that Raver-Lampman's boyfriend, Daveed Diggs, as well as many of her actor friend, also are involved in the show, was icing on the cake.

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Written and executive produced by Loren Bouchard, the series follows Owen Tillerman (Leslie Odom Jr.), manager of the titular New York green space, who lives on the grounds in a castle with his newspaper reporter wife Paige (Kathryn Hahn) and their kids, Molly and Cole (Tituss Burgess).

Season 3 premieres on Apple TV+ Friday. Stanley Tucci, Kristen Bell and Josh Gad co-star.

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"I was a fan of the show, but I also just was so excited that there was a really loving, seemingly normal family in the animated space," Raver-Lampman told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

"It was an interracial family and I loved that. I connect with that so profoundly for many obvious reasons," said the actress, who took over the role of Molly in Season 2 after Kristen Bell stepped down from it.

Bell now plays Molly's maternal aunt, Abby.

"Voicing any animal or made-up character would have been amazing, but to be able to voice a human, animated character who is biracial and can voice the biracial experience was without a doubt the most exciting thing for me to be a part of," Raver-Lampman said of playing Molly.

"To be on the cusp of the voice-over space opening doors for more diversity and representation in the space, it was exciting to be a huge part of that."

Central Park doesn't have huge time jumps between seasons, but Molly is depicted as starting to mature from a little girl into a young woman who falls in love, goes bra shopping and gets her first period.

Raver-Lampman said she loved exploring all the thrills and turmoil that come with that.

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"Being a teenager is hard. Growing is hard," she said.

"You're exhausted physically because your body is changing so much. Just school and other kids and life as a teenager is really tricky. I really enjoyed navigating my adolescence through Molly with a weird perspective now," she added.

"We are addressing and normalizing a lot of conversations that should be had with young adults."

Molly also experiences specific challenges related to her hair because her dad is Black and her mom is White.

"This is something that I dealt with when I was a teenager," Raver-Lampman said.

"Molly's exploring and understanding her curl patterns and owning it and being proud of it and not trying to hide it or change it because of societal pressures or anything like that. This season, we are diving into some real adolescent gold, which is really fun."

Molly also is someone who really appreciates her parents and little brother, knowing they have her back, even when they drive her crazy.

"I love that Molly loves her family so much and that they are so close," Raver-Lampman said.

"They have their moments, but it is never ongoing and love is at the core of this family. They are kooky in so many ways. I just think that Kathryn and Leslie are just impeccable as the strong foundation of the family, and they are raising two amazingly cool kids," she added.

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"Cole is a lunatic in the best way. Tituss, every season, continues to surprise me. They are all so brilliant and, so, to have those three as the cornerstones of this family unit that I am a part of just makes me feel so honored. I am constantly learning from the three of them."

Two seasons in, the actress still hasn't met some of her co-stars because they all record their lines separately. She interacted with the writers and directors over Zoom.

"I joined the show in the height of the [coronavirus] pandemic, so it was me singing on a microphone that I bought at Guitar Center in one of our coat closets," she said with a laugh.

"But I can't say that the work suffered or that the experience was any different. You're still in a room by yourself if you go into the studio."

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