Something tells us the Parents Television Council will have a lot to say about Disney Channel’s newest series.
Andi Mack follows a 13-year-old girl named Andi (played by Peyton Elizabeth Lee) who receives life-changing news from her cooler, older, motorcycle-riding sister Bex (Lilan Bowden), who returns home in the premiere after traveling the world.
Ready for the secret? It turns out that Bex isn’t really Andi’s older sister, she’s her mother. And Andi’s mom (Friends‘ own Lauren “Not Rachel” Tom)? Yup, she’s actually her grandmother.
“[The network] asked me for something different,” creator Terri Minsky — also responsible for creating Disney Channel’s Lizzie McGuire and executive-producing Season 1 of MTV’s Finding Carter — tells TVLine. “They wanted to attract an older audience. The whole thing was very flattering, because they seemed to think I could do it based on my Lizzie McGuire pilot. They just said, ‘Give us something new,’ so I pitched them this idea and they went for it immediately.”
Of the initial pitch meeting, Minsky recalls, “We shared all the stories we had for the first season, and they sat there like we were reading them a Harry Potter book or something. They were so entertained! I loved that. It was an unusual and very special, validating experience for me.”
In addition to being a more adult show than the network is used to airing, Andi Mack is also far more serialized than any of its current offerings. Explains Minsky, “There’s a ‘next on…’ at the end of every episode and a ‘previously on…’ at the beginning of the next. There’s a story that’s told from the pilot to the 13th episode,” including the gradual reveal of Andi’s father.
But before nervous parents start thinking that Disney Channel is offering their kids a lesson in sex ed…
“We’re not going to say where babies come from,” Minsky says. “Even the whole ‘when a man and a woman love each other very much’ — no, we don’t have that conversation. These 13 episodes are primarily about the nature of the relationships, the shift that happens, the loss of trust and the rebuilding of a family dynamic. … I can’t say for a fact that we’ll never talk about sex, because we talk about a lot of stuff on this show I wasn’t expecting to. We don’t specifically say the words ‘pregnant teenager,’ but we have conversations about invasion of privacy and how she left home. There’s some tough family stuff in there, and that’s what I’m proud of.”
Strangely, the most surprising aspect of Andi Mack isn’t its adult theme, but rather the inspiration behind it.
“I’m kind of self conscious about saying this, but it’s based on me reading a profile on Jack Nicholson,” Minsky admits. “This was his life story. He was raised thinking his mother was his sister, and he didn’t find out until later. I’m not going to represent that I know his story, but it was an idea that I heard and thought it was an interesting dynamic I might be able to explore.”
Andi Mack officially premieres April 7 on Disney Channel, but you can catch the premiere On Demand, on the Disney Channel app and on YouTube (below). Watch the first episode, then drop a comment with your thoughts.