Last Man Standing has had its twists and turns over the years, not just in its network home but within its main cast.
The central characters of Last Man Standing have been re-cast a number of times in its 7-season run so far. Several actors in key roles have left the show — either by choice or by happenstance, and audiences have had to adapt to a brand new face with a familiar old name.
Of course, casting shifts were practically inevitable when the series jumped from one network to another. After ABC canceled the series in spring of 2017, the actors rightly believed that the run was over. However, a year later, Fox chose to revive the show in a previously unprecedented move that has now happened twice in one TV season.
The result was a scramble to reassemble the old cast, some of whom had been lucky enough to find other work in that gap year. This means that the Baxter family looks a little different in its new time slot, though so far fans don't seem to mind too much.
Through it all, the show has maintained a dedicated audience and a unified theme. Last Man Standing has weathered seismic casting shake-ups, proving its fortitude time and time again. Here is a look at all of the series' major re-casts and why they happened.
Photo credit: Twitter / @lastmanstanding
Alexandra Krosney played Kristin Beth Baxter in season 1 of the series. While she played the eldest daughter in the family, Krosney was actually two years younger than Molly Ephraim, who was then playing her younger sister on screen, Mandy Baxter. The production gave no specific reason for Krosney's re-casting at the end of season 1. Krosney went on to take a number of roles in TV, movies and shorts in the years since.
Krosney was replaced by Amanda Fuller — previously of Grey's Anatomy — who has held the role of Kristin ever since. Fuller is, notably, two years older than Ephraim, and therefore four years older than Krosney. She played the elder Baxter daughter with the same stubborn severity as Krosney, while simultaneously occupying other roles, including that of Badison Murphy in the latest season of Orange Is the New Black.
The Baxters' middle daughter, Mandy, was played by Molly Ephraim for the first six seasons. She saw the character through some of her most rebellious and turbulent years. However, when the series was revived on Fox, Ephraim herself decided not to come back.
“When the show was canceled… [Molly] got involved in some different things, so when [Last Man Standing] came back, she was not able to do it," executive producer Matt Berry said at the Television Critics Association summer press tour, according to TV Line. "It’s unfortunate. We love her deeply. She’s a big part of who we were. But [it’s] exciting for us to look around and see who we can get to play that character. We want someone to come in and not play Molly Ephraim. We want somebody to come in and play Mandy. We’ve seen a lot of great actresses."
Ephraim has taken on a recurring role as a bartender on Brockmire, as well as another as Alexa Vonn on Halt and Catch Fire. She is also in an upcoming film called The Front Runner.
To replace Ephraim, Last Man Standing cast Molly McCook, best known for her work on Netflix's The Ranch. McCook has already endeared herself to the audience with one quick joke about the re-casting in the season premiere. Her co-workers seem enamored of her too, as showrunner Kevin Abbott explained in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly.
"It’s a little jarring then you grow to love her. The actress' feelings were not hurt — well, she said 'very briefly' and then she got past it. We hope the audience starts to feel the way we do," Abbott said.
"She’s not doing an imitation of Molly Ephraim playing Mandy, she’s playing Mandy her own way," he continued. "We put her in a tough situation in that first episode she’s replacing a beloved actress and we have her in opposition of Mike and Eve who are very well loved obviously. We had to do that for the story but she’s not going to be in opposition to Mike in the upcoming episodes and hopefully they can see her shine."
The character of Boyd Baxter, Kristin's son, has been through the ringer on Last Man Standing, with a total of four actors taking on the role. In the first season, Evan and Luke Kruntchev shared the role, as Boyd was so young at the time.
In season 2, however, the role was handed over to Flyn Morrison, who held it for the rest of the series run on ABC. There has still been no clear word on why Morrison did not return with the renewal, but in season 7, Boyd was re-cast yet again.
This time, Jet Jurgensmeyer is taking on the role. Jurgensmeyer has an impressive resume for one so young, with previous roles spanning from the Disney Channel to CSI. So far, he seems like a hit among viewers of the reboot.
Ryan Vogelson is the high school boyfriend who gets Kristin pregnant and then quickly leaves the country in season 1. That first appearance was played by an unlikely guest star: Nick Jonas. The teen heartthrob played a Ryan who was terrified by the responsibility of parenthood, and left as soon as things got scary. However, when the writers wanted to bring Ryan back as a regular part of the show, it seems Jonas was not interested in that kind of consistent work.
In season 2, Ryan returned as Jordan Masterson, who continues to play the role today. Masterson's take on Ryan is more mature and fleshed out, with the guts and conviction to stand up to Mike Baxter at times. Jordan is a stereotypically liberal figure, with views that generally oppose Mike's, yet the two have developed a begrudging respect for each other over the years.
Finally, the last notable re-cast in Last Man Standing may be even more rare than two actors holding the same role. A single actor has played two different roles on the series, and not just any actor — former child star Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Thomas co-starred on Home Improvement with Allen for years, and it seems the producers couldn't get enough of him on this show, either.
Thomas had a recurring role in seasons 2 and 3 as John Baker, Kristin's boss at the upscale restaurant where she works for a while. In season 4, he returns as a new character named Randy, which is undoubtedly a reference to his Home Improvement character. While the character only appeared for one episode, it showed a penchant for playing fast and loose with casting conventions on the set of Last Man Standing.