Central Park's Leslie Odom Jr. on the Broadway-Infused Musical Series

Central Park‘s Leslie Odom Jr. on the Broadway-Infused Musical Series

The Broadway-infused animated musical series Central Park has planted itself on Apple TV+ for a second season. The show, cocreated by The Book of Mormon alum Josh Gad, features the vocal talents of Gad and his theater pals, including Leslie Odom Jr., Tituss Burgess, Stanley Tucci, Daveed Diggs, and Rory O’Malley. On screen, Odom plays Owen, the patriarch of the Tillerman family, an eccentric brood living in Central Park. Entertainment journalist Frank DiLella recently caught up with the Tony Award winner for Hamilton to see what’s in store for season 2.

Talk about a Broadway reunion with this project.…

It’s so exciting! We love each other. So the fact that we get to come together and make this show from week to week — I hope we get to do it for a very long time.

How about collaborating with Josh Gad? Is it hard to keep a straight face with Josh around?

It’s one of my favorite things. I know whenever I work with Josh I’m going to experience one of my favorite emotions, which is tears through laughter. Josh makes me laugh like nobody else. Every now and again I can make Josh laugh, and that’s a real badge of honor for me.

And you and Josh go way back: You guys went to college together at Carnegie Mellon University. What was Josh like in college?

The same exact guy. And I mean that not only was he a compelling and interesting and exciting young performer, but he was also creating stuff and he was writing and he was putting me into these crazy, intricate pieces back then. He just had a need to create on a large scale. He was creating large things back in college and he’s doing the same today — his sandbox has just gotten bigger.

What should audiences know about the Tillerman family for season 2 of Central Park?

I really want people to think about their favorite long-running animated shows and remember what they were like in seasons 1, 2, and 3. These shows go through big changes and it takes a second to find yourself. I can’t see the future, but I recognize some moments of real magic in season 1, and I think we have more of those moments in season 2.

I have to point out representation matters, even in cartoon form.

I agree. I didn’t see myself in a ton of animation coming up, and that’s OK. But I can imagine it would’ve meant a lot to me to have a Tillerman family. And I see the way my daughter lights up literally seeing me represented in animation. You want to know that you’re possible in all spaces, and we still have a long way to go with diversity and representation in all of these spaces.

What was it like recording this show during COVID?

We found a way to record from home. And there was a real gratitude, because so much had been taken away that we just never imagined could be taken away. We were just grateful to work.

There’s a Hamilton reference in the first episode of season 2. Give our readers some Hamilton love, Leslie.

Look at the company — I would be proud to be alongside that company for all the days long. Yesterday I rented out a theatre and took my whole family to see In the Heights, to see Anthony Ramos shine. And I cried more times than I will admit. To work on this show with Daveed, and I’m also writing another thing with Daveed now, and Renée [Elise Goldsberry] is killing it with Girls5Eva —  I’m just grateful all the days of my life that I found my way to Hamilton and Hamilton found its way to me.

You will always be a New Yorker, so in the spirit of the show, what is your favorite spot in Central Park?

As life goes on, you discover new parts of the park. Central Park is huge. Having my little girl, Lucy, there is a spot that we would go to all the time while my wife, Nicolette [Robinson] was doing Waitress. It was a park for kids under 5, so it was a perfect place to take Lucy to. I also love The Delacorte, where Shakespeare in the Park plays. It depends what season of life you’re in.