Last Man Standing showrunner Kevin Abbott said Molly McCook was "very briefly" hurt by the fans' reaction to her replacing Molly Ephraim as Mandy Baxter, but she has since moved beyond it.
During the recasting process, the producers did not think McCook would work because she looks so physically different. They even toyed with creating a new character for McCook. But ultimately, they believed she is such a good actress, she would work in the role.
"Physically that’s not going to work. And then she’s just so good. We thought maybe another character? Then we thought she’s the best actress, let’s go with it," Abbott explained.
The writers did include some meta jokes in the season 7 premiere about how Mandy suddenly looks different, but they quickly moved on from that.
As for the negative reaction to her casting, McCook's feelings were only hurt "very briefly," she told Abbott, "and then she got past it," he said.
"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. 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 [Tim Allen] and Eve [Kaitlyn Dever] 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."
Even before Last Man Standing returned on Fox, McCook noticed there was some fan outrage against her. She took the high road though, assuring fans she will respect the show they love.
"I SEE your new #NotMyMandy hashtag. You’re right... I’m not THAT Mandy. I’m THIS Mandy. I get it. I promise to love and respect your favorite show and YOU," she tweeted on Sept. 27.
In a Sept. 17 post, McCook said she did not "blame" fans for their comments on a new Mandy.
"I'm doing my BEST and making her my own," she wrote. "I know it's not ideal that she ever had to change. But try to keep an open mind."
Abbott needed to recast Mandy because Ephraim accepted new roles after ABC cancelled Last Man Standing in early 2017. She appeared in Halt And Catch Fire and Casual last year. She also has a major role in The Front Runner, Jason Reitman's Gary Hart biopic starring Hugh Jackman.
"It’s a daunting task to replace characters that we love and adore. I come from the acting side of it: I’ve been replaced. It’s very difficult for the actor part of me," Tim Allen said of the recasting process in a Parade Magazine interview last month. "Mandy [Ephraim] is a tough one to doppelgänger, so where we're headed is not to doppelgänger. The new Mandy will not look like her because that’s trying too hard."
New episodes of Last Man Standing air on Fox Fridays at 8 p.m. ET. You can catch Ephraim in The Front Runner on Nov. 6.
Photo credit: Fox