“It’s been great. I feel lucky,” the Season 7 newcomer effused to TVLine at Fox’s recent TCA press tour soiree. “I sneaked onto this show and it’s a well oiled machine, and here I am!”
Of course, McCook — whose other TV credits include The Ranch and Freeform’s Good Trouble — didn’t quite “sneak” onto the sitcom, which was revived by Fox a year after its six-season ABC run ended. Succeeding Molly Ephraim in the role of Mike and Vanessa’s middle child, McCook stands as a markedly taller, and blonder, Mandy. And that has had fans talking from the time the recast was announced up until… well, this very second.
Reflecting on her early conversations with producers, McCook says, “I think that we all kind of decided to go a different route, and that’s OK. New network, new rules.
“We discussed dying my hair darker, but really, what’s the point?” she continues. “I’m new, and any actor who steps into a role that’s already been done, and who tries to keep it the same, is making a mistake. We are all different people, and we all decided that ‘different is best’ and just moved forward with it.”
After all, Mandy is still Mandy, an aspiring fashion designer who married young and still lives under her parents’ roof, with husband Kyle. “I mean look, the history is there,” McCook notes. “Mandy has her story that fans have seen, and that still exists. We just decided to make her my own and put a fun spin on it.
“I’m tall and I’m blonde now, and I’m taking over the world!” she adds with a laugh.
Asked about the feedback she has received since stepping into the role, McCook acknowledges, “Everyone is very vocal about their feelings — that’s the reason why the show is back, because of the fans.” But as for how the that response has leaned…. “At first, people had a little bit of a hard time with the change-up, but the supportive ones are the ones that stand out to me,” she says. “I always am responsive because it matters so much to me to hear the positive; I thank them every time.”
Previewing what the rest of the 22-episode season has in store for her character, McCook shares, “Mandy and Kyle are spreading their wings and looking at possibly getting a place of their own” — and not a sitcom moment too soon. After all, “Living with Mandy’s parents is a lot,” the actress smiles, “so they’re seeing what the next step is.”
And what advice would McCook offer her alter ego as she spreads said wings? “I would tell Mandy to trust her talents. I think she really knows what she’s doing in the fashion industry, and if she could just see how wonderfully talented and unique she is, she could go very far. Like the rest of us, her insecurities can get the best of her sometimes. She needs to power through!”
Last Man Standing airs Fridays at 8/7c, on Fox.