While fans continue to complain about the jarring difference between Molly Ephraim and Molly McCook, who replaced the former on FOX's Last Man Standing revival, McCook says the two actresses have not spoken about the matter.
"No, we haven’t spoken about it in particular, but we do have a lot of mutual friends. I know that she has wished me well and all is good on that end. I’m very honored to be continuing the path," McCook told Entertainment Tonight. "The word 'replacement' has been used a lot. I think it’s so much more than that. It’s not just Mandy who’s different, but Boyd is different. Things are refreshed in general."
"We're kind of programmed to be afraid of change and I understand that; I'm the same way," she told ET. "When I watch any show, if there's any sort of replacement or even if a new character comes in, it's hard for me to accept them, but I hope that everybody keeps their hearts open and they realize that things happen and things change and this is still the Baxter family, so I hope they all can welcome me with open arms."
In fact, she said she's tried very hard not to mirror Ephraim's portrayal.
"I was pretty familiar with the show when I got the audition, but knowing I was a 'recast,' I actually avoided watching it as much as possible. Molly Ephraim did such an amazing job on the show for all of those seasons. I am such an opposite choice; I knew if they were having me audition that they weren’t looking for a replica of Molly," McCook said. "I decided to go into it with a fresh take on the role and in the room, we played around with it a lot, and luckily for me, they wanted a completely fresh take on it, which is what we did."
In classic sitcom fashion, Last Man Standing poked fun at the role changeup, offering a wink and a nod to the behind-the-scenes switch. One of the jokes was that it took characters an entire episode to notice that Many is "taller" and "blonder," something McCook said the show really wanted to hone in on.
"If there’s any type of show that can get away with poking fun at things in such an obvious way is a sitcom. There were so many ways that the show wanted to connect, especially for the first episode back, which was such a massive thing," she explained. "In terms of Mandy looking different, we wanted it to be more of an obvious thing. I couldn’t be more different physically. If we’re all making fun of it and making light of it, we hope the audience can play with us too. It seems more like a friendly approach than just pushing the storyline into people’s faces and making them accept it."
And while she said it was "intimidating" at first to join the cast of the long-running show, she said she "definitely [feels] a part of the family now."
"It’s been really surreal. Intimidating is the exact word that I would use for coming into this experience altogether, not only because it was an established family for six seasons but also because Tim Allen has been such a massive part of my entire life," she explained.
"My favorite Christmas movie of all time is The Santa Clause, so there was an odd thing I had to get past once I started working with him. The moment was actually after our first show. We did our bows and we were heading back and everybody was saying, 'Great show,'" she continued, "Tim hugged me and he said, 'Welcome aboard,' and I heard Buzz Lightyear. I never told him that. I don’t listen or look at him and think of Buzz Lightyear, but it was one of those things where I was like, wow, nothing is cooler than Buzz Lightyear welcoming you aboard. That was pretty cool."
Last Man Standing airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.