Josh Gad knew that recasting Kristen Bell's role on Central Park was the right thing to do -- and so did the rest of the team at the animated sitcom. Bell announced on June 24 that she would no longer be voicing the role of Molly Tillerman on the Apple TV+ series, which debuted in May. The role will now be recast with a Black or multiracial actress. The character of Molly is biracial.
"I could not love Kristen Bell more than I already knew I loved her, because it wasn't even a discussion," Gad tells ET's Nischelle Turner of the decision to recast the role. Gad co-created the series with Loren Bouchard and Nora Smith. "It was -- this is what we're going to all do collectively to make sure that we get this right."
"And in terms of finding the person to replace Kristen as Molly, it's a really hard task," he adds. "I will say that we've been immersed already in listening to so many unbelievable auditions, and some very well known people, some not well known people. It's been thrilling to see the excitement and the love that people seem to have for this character in this role that Kristen created. Everybody's bringing their own unique take on it, so I hope that we have something to announce very soon."
Gad has been "blown away" by the performances he's listened to already, and tells ET that he and the team have seen so much talent, that they've started to put away tapes that "aren't quite right for Molly" for other roles on Central Park. "There is so much talent out there," he raves.
The actor admits having to recast Bell's role in the first place is a "learning lesson" -- for him and for others as people across the globe continue to fight for racial equality.
"I think what's really amazing is the conversations that have risen out of this. You've seen immediate change, I think, across the board on the surface level," he says, adding that he's trying to make that change last behind the scenes. "How do you continue to make sure that there are opportunities that aren't just flashy, but opportunities from the writers room down? Animation, directors, producers -- where do you continue to do better? How do you continue to do better?"
"I think that conversation is really driving a lot of the decisions moving forward, not only Central Park but everything I'm involved with," he shares. "And it's exciting to see."
Gad certainly has a lot on his plate. He just dropped season 2 of his serial drama podcast, Blood Ties, on Wondery. The podcast tells the story of siblings Eleonore (Gillian Jacobs) and Michael Richland (Gad), who are left to pick up the pieces after their parents' private plane vanishes en route to a family Christmas vacation in the Caribbean.
"It's addictive," Gad says of the podcast. "For me, it was such a great opportunity to tell a story with nothing but our voices, and with an incredible sound engineering team, we create this amazing soundscape that rivets you and brings you in. It's been such a thrill to be a part of."
The podcast has developed a huge following -- and Gad says "it sort of transcends cult status."
"When we were doing it, I was skeptical that a sort of fictionalized mystery podcast would be able to compete with the many other genres available. And when it was released over Christmas of last year, it exploded to the top of the charts and just kind of stayed at No. 1 for quite a long time," he notes. "So, it has generated huge interest and a huge response and our hope is... that people who have been waiting eagerly are rewarded for holding tight and waiting for season two."
Then, of course, Gad is loved by fans for his webseries Reunited Apart. He's helped raise $1.3 million for charity by reuniting beloved casts, like those of Lord of the Rings, The Goonies and Ghostbusters.
One cast that he wasn't able to make happen? Coming to America. "I wanted Eddie Murphy so badly. I got a flat 'no' from his agents before I could even go to him," Gad confesses. "It's just one of my favorite movies from that era and I really, really, really was bummed. But I'm holding out hope."