We’ve already fallen in love with Molly McCook’s version of Mandy Baxter on ‘Last Man Standing!’ The actress spoke with HL about exploring this new version of the character, handling the backlash, and more.
Replacing a well-established character is never easy, but Molly McCook is tackling the task effortlessly. The actress took over the role of Mandy Baxter on FOX’s revival of Last Man Standing from Molly Ephraim, who played the character for 6 seasons on the ABC series. Molly’s version of Mandy isn’t exactly like the original, which is a good thing. Molly is really coming to her own as Mandy, and we can’t wait to see what else she has in store. “I’m really excited for people to see the heart of her, and I hope that will help them [fans] accept me a little bit more,” Molly told HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY.
Molly admitted that she felt “pressure” taking on the role initially. “I specifically felt a lot of pressure being a new actor in a character that’s been established for 6 seasons.” The audition process was pretty much the same as any other audition, but Molly noted that auditioning for a role that had been played by someone else was “intimidating,” to say the least. “I knew that I could watch it and watch what Molly [Ephraim] was for so many seasons, but I am physically such a different choice that I knew that trying to do what she did was not the right move,” Molly said. “And if they were allowing me, the way I looked, to walk through the door, I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted to do. So it was a little bit different. I was tempted to watch it again. I’d seen the show, of course. I think once I had the audition I steered clear of trying to do anything that she did.”
There has been some backlash over the casting change, but Molly is determined to stay positive and prove the haters wrong. “I know that it’s hard for an audience to accept,” she continued. “The truth is, if we’re winking at the audience already and having fun with that, I think if the audience can accept it a little bit more and have fun with us, they’ll realize that we have so much fun stuff coming up. Instead of seeing Mandy the way that she was, and she can’t ever change, I think, why not look at it as Mandy’s evolving as a human being, as an adult, like anybody else. And yes, although physically I am completely different, I think that her core is still the same, but we are all really developing my version of her which has been really nice. I can’t wait for people to see.”
She revealed that although she has seen negative comments on Twitter, she said “there’s been a really positive reaction from all the true fans of the show, but of course there are trolls and people who can’t quite accept change. The truth is there is so much that’s different in a good way and such refreshing way.”
She added: “I totally get it. It’s so much easier to judge and not be accepting of change. I think for me, it’s been such an odd transition because I’ve been so excited for this opportunity, and I’m living the life that I’ve always wanted. When I’m at work, it’s the dream job, and then you can get on the internet and your world can come crashing down. You have to know how to filter those things and say, ‘I’m going to prove it to you. I swear you’re going to like this.’ And for the people who don’t and who don’t ever get over that, that’s up to me to kind of brush off my shoulders and move forward. That’s all I can do and I’ve kind of really come to that conclusion right about now.”
As for what’s coming up for Mandy, the character is going to continue to evolve. “I think Mandy’s really figuring out how to be an adult. Now that she’s married, what are the next steps? What does this mean for her career and her fashion line? Where does her focus go? I think we’re going to see how she navigates being an adult,” Molly told HollywoodLife. As for a Mandy and Kyle baby in the future, it’s still a possibility! “We’re kind of figuring that out as we speak,” Molly revealed. Last Man Standing season 7 airs Fridays at 8 p.m. on FOX.