This week sees the return of the Apple TV+ animated series Central Park for the back half of its second season. One of the most creative series on TV today, the Loren Bouchard-created show features a ton of original music and some fantastically talented voice performers. In the new episodes, Owen Tillerman (Leslie Odom, Jr.) continues to manage the grounds at New York's Central Park while keeping a wary eye on wealthy socialite and hotel owner Bitsey Brandenham (Stanley Tucci), who wants to acquire the park and pave it over. Owen's reporter wife, Paige (Kathryn Hahn) finds herself ever closer to blowing the story of Bitsey's corruption and influence wide open, while the Tillerman kids — Molly (Emmy Raver-Lampman) and Cole (Tituss Burgess) — continue to live a childhood that seems both magical (they live in a castle in Central Park!) and mundane.
One of the trademarks of the show has always been a top notch guest cast. This half-season keeps that train chugging right along, with another stellar crop of guest actors and singing talent.
One thing that makes Central Park so special is that the Bitsey Brandenham character is such social tyrant running in the most elite circles in New York City that she opens up the story to any number of eccentric millionaires as guest characters, most of whom end up being Bitsey's rivals. One such rival is Gwendolyn Swish, whom Bitsey wants to take advantage of via a charitable fundraiser. Gwendolyn is played by Emmy-winning comedy legend Catherine O'Hara, who got her start on SCTV, played mother figures in films like Home Alone and Beetlejuice, and is now probably best known as Moira Rose on Schitt's Creek.
When Owen and Paige want to make some changes at home, the fact that they live in a converted castle in Central Park means they have to get approval from the Landmark Preservation Bureau. Enter Iggy Martino, who is obsessed with the Tillermans' home. He's voiced by Broadway veteran Javier Muñoz, who is the latest of many Hamilton alumni to star on the show, after Leslie Odom Jr. (Owen), Daveed Diggs (Helen), and Christopher Jackson (Glorious Gary). Muñoz took over the role of Alexander Hamilton after Lin-Manuel Miranda left the show in 2016.
Downton Abbey made Dan Stevens famous when he starred on the show as Matthew Crawley from 2010 to 2012. He's since gone on to films like The Guest and Eurovision Song Contest, and TV shows like FX's Legion. On Central Park, he provides the voice of Bitsey's demanding father who appears in flashbacks to Bitsey's childhood.
Speaking of parental figures, we get to meet Owen's mom and she's voiced by none other than the great Jenifer Lewis. Lewis got her start singing backup for Bette Midler (and on screen singing backup for Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act). She played a college professor on A Different World and has been in movies like What's Love Got to Do with It and The Preacher's Wife. These days she's probably best known for playing Ruby on black-ish.
Emmy and Tony Award winning performer Billy Porter will provide the voice of Vance, a beauty and age-defying products entrepreneur who Paige encounters in the course of reporting a story. Porter's unmistakable voice and bravado are present in everything he does, from TV like American Horror Story to films like the Camila Cabello-starring Cinderella, where he played the role of "Fabulous Godmother." But it was the FX series Pose where Porter found his most indelible role, winning an Emmy in 2019.
Ingrid Witherstraw is the daughter of a wealthy New York socialite who Paige goes to for information for her big story. She's voiced by Ellie Kemper, best known for playing Erin on The Office, Becca on Bridesmaids, and of course the title character in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, for which she got Emmy nominations in 2016 and 2017.
Another character we meet through Bitsey is sneaker mogul Landon Volk, who's looking to partner with the Brandenham Hotel. Landon is voiced by comedic character actor Malcolm Barrett, who was a regular on the NBC series Timeless and on the Aretha Franklin season of Genius. He also played research and development scientist Lem on ABC's far too short-lived comedy Better Off Ted, and the nervous airplane passenger on the Key & Peele "terries" sketch.
Don't worry about Owen, he's fine, but he does end up needing to go to the eye doctor, and that doctor is voiced by comedian Aparna Nancherla. While her voice is incredibly distinctive in and of itself, you may also know her from the Comedy Central series Corporate, as Michelle on Mythic Quest, as the voice of BoJack's maybe-daughter Hollyhock on BoJack Horseman, or as the voice of Moon, the youngest Tobin family member on The Great North.
Central Park returns to Apple TV+ for the second half of Season 2 on Friday March 3rd, with new episodes dropping weekly through April 8.
Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.
TOPICS: Central Park, Apple TV+, Aparna Nancherla, Billy Porter, Catherine O'Hara, Dan Stevens, Ellie Kemper, Javier Muñoz, Jenifer Lewis, Malcolm Barrett