In Friday’s premiere, Molly McCook made her debut as the Baxters’ daughter Mandy, succeeding the character’s original portrayer, Molly Ephraim, who opted not to return for the Fox revival. The response, at least from TVLine readers, was largely negative.
“We fully expected [the backlash],” exec producer Kevin Abbott tells EW.com. “You don’t take a character played by an actress that’s beloved and suddenly switch them out. I’m glad they missed Molly Ephraim; that’s a good thing. And they’re going to go through the same process we did in casting.”
Abbott admits that, initially, he and his fellow EPs did not respond favorably to the recast either. “When Molly McCook walked in we thought, ‘That’s not going to work. 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.
“It’s a little jarring then you grow to love her,” Abbott adds. “We hope the audience starts to feel the way we do.”
Over the summer, fellow Last Man Standing exec producer Matt Berry lamented Ephraim’s decision not to reprise her role. “When the show was cancelled [on ABC]… [Molly] got involved in some different things, so when [Last Man Standing] came back, she was not able to do it,” the EP said. “It’s unfortunate. We love her deeply. She’s a big part of who we were.”