When Last Man Standing returned in 2018 thanks to Fox, fans celebrated having the Baxter family back on television. However, a few were disappointed by Molly Ephraim not coming back to play middle sister Mandy and was replaced by Molly McCook. Now that it's been more than a full season since McCook joined the cast, the actress told PopCulture.com she "understood how difficult" the recasting was, but the response has been much kinder lately.
"I think that it has changed and a lot more people have sort of accepted me, and I also think that I've sort of learned how to navigate social media in that way and not focus on the negative," McCook said in an exclusive PopCulture.com interview. "So I think that it's definitely a combination of both. But I do think that when there's any change on any sort of thing that, particularly like a TV show, that people are so used to and have fallen in love with all the characters, and I think a lot of people believe that these characters are real."
McCook said she "completely understood how difficult it is to accept the change," but noted how her Mandy is much different from Ephraim's Mandy.
"The writers are writing more for me and my version of Mandy, and I think that it all has sort of settled in a better way." McCook said. "I think I sort of came to the conclusion that if, by now, they're not into my version of Mandy, then they never will be. And that's okay. Because actors are actors and they always will be."
While it is common for shows to bring in new characters this late into the game, it is rare for a character to be recast after one actor played the part for six seasons. McCook said it was a "difficult thing for the show to do too," but they had to have Mandy back.
"I think that people would be furious at that," McCook said. "And I think that people would be furious if Mandy did look the same as Molly Ephraim. I think that any change would have made everyone uncomfortable. So I think that this has been a big challenge for everyone, including the fans. But it's been a fun ride for sure."
McCook was welcomed to the Last Man Standing set with open arms, and joining the show was made easier because she already knew Christoph Sanders beforehand. It helped the two create a believable husband-wife relationship that was different than the one between Sanders' Kyle and Ephraim's Mandy.
"It's so important to develop a friendship with somebody when you are acting with them, especially if you immediately have to have a history of years and be married," McCook explained. "That's something so wild about being an actor. Sometimes you're handed a script and you're being thrown into a situation where you are married or have kids, and yet you're just meeting this person face to face. So I think that Christoph and I being friends for so many years did bring us a sense of comfortability, which was really important."
As for Kyle and Mandy's future, the picture is a little hazy, even for McCook. Last season, Kyle and Mandy were trying to have a baby, but the two have faced other challenges in Season 8.
"Our characters are evolving and the writers do such a great job, so that I can't imagine that the topic won't be back," McCook teased. "Do I know in what way? No. So I guess we'll all find out together. Maybe I'll find out a little before you, I hope."
Last Man Standing airs at 8 p.m. ET on Fox Thursdays.
Photo credit: Fox