Interview: Leslie Odom Jr. Tells Us About Central Park Season 2

The Tony winner and double Oscar-nominee tells us about recording vocals from home, and the joy it brought during such a dark year.

What a balm it was, in the early days of the pandemic, for Leslie Odom Jr. to have Central Park. The wacky Apple TV Plus musical animated comedy series , about Central Park's caretaker and his family, has returned for its sophomore year, almost entirely recorded from home, and it was certainly a relief to turn to something that joyous at such a dark time. Here, the Tony winner and double Oscar nominee tells us what to expect.

Leslie Odom Jr.
Leslie Odom Jr.
(© Seth Walters)

This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Is season two of Central Park the first season recorded during the pandemic?
The second and third are pandemic seasons. We're in the third right now. The second was almost entirely recorded at the beginning of the pandemic. There was an acute difference between this and season one, because, while we're not all in the same room together, we'd all be in the studio. I wasn't recording anything from home pre-pandemic. it was weird at first, and it took us a second to find the best way to do it. We wanted it to be efficient and of good quality, so we had to find out what time of day to record, and where in my house to record. Pretty quickly, we realized how lucky we were. When the business was at a standstill, we could record this cartoon. We were tremendously grateful to have the opportunity to work and focus on something else during a dreadful and uncertain time. To work on something joyful and turn our attention to Central Park a couple times a week was a real gift.

What can we expect from season two, and what is your favorite episode?
Like the great animated shows, the Tillermans are really, really slow to change, and are really reliable and predicatable in their ridiculousness. But what happens behind the scenes is that the people that make the show get better and more confident, and find a way to speak to the time in a more efficient way. That's what you find with season two of Central Park: a more confident group of creators making the show.

There were a lot of real moments of magic in season one, and we're landing on more of those moments in season two. We've tried to double them. I really dig the Mother's Day episode, which is, I think, episode two. There's also an episode where you meet Owen's mother, and I don't know if I can give away who's playing my mom, but it's a Hollywood legend. We had great fun recording that episode.

Owen (voiced by Leslie Odom Jr.), Molly (voiced by Emmy Raver-Lampman), Cole (voiced by Tituss Burgess) and Paige (voiced by Kathryn Hahn) in Central Park season two, now streaming on Apple TV Plus.
Owen (voiced by Leslie Odom Jr.), Molly (voiced by Emmy Raver-Lampman), Cole (voiced by Tituss Burgess) and Paige (voiced by Kathryn Hahn) in Central Park season two, now streaming on Apple TV Plus.
(© Apple TV Plus)

The show is leaning into Hamilton even more in season two, bringing in Emmy Raver-Lampman to play Molly, joining you and Daveed Diggs in the voice cast. What does she bring to the group?
Emmy brings a sweetness and an earnestness, but she's also confident and complex. While she's behind all of us in her exploration of Molly, I have no doubt that over time, she will continue to discover and flesh out her Molly in a way that is interesting and surprising. Her first goal was just to become a Tillerman, and we welcomed her with open arms.

Have you showed Central Park to your daughter? Is she allowed to watch it?
She loves Central Park. She really digs it. It's a little PG-13, but she's a mature kid. She loves Central Park. She really digs it. She has her favorite songs, and her favorite episode of last season was the finale. During the pandemic, every now and then we needed a bargaining chip with her, and we used her favorite episode of Central Park. And you need all the bargaining tools you can get with these four year olds, let me tell you!

Does working on this show make you nostalgic for the Big Apple?
Yes, it does. This is the longest I've been away from New York City in my whole life. I was born in New York City and my parents and grandparents are still in New York. I've never been away from New York for more than a couple months at a time, so it's very strange to be away. I almost get emotional about it. I can go about my day and be very busy, but my heart longs for that city. That's for sure.