Last Man Standing

Fox

"Last Man Standing" returned last Friday with big numbers -- 8.13 million viewers and a 1.8 rating. That made it Fox's most-watched comedy in nearly seven years. It easily topped every other show on Friday nights, including beating ABC, the network that dropped the comedy after six seasons.

That had to feel good.

But it didn't feel so good for many fans to see a new actress playing Mandy. Fox had warned fans about the Mandy and Boyd cast changes from ABC to Fox -- including Molly McCook ("The Ranch") taking over the role of Mandy from Molly Ephraim. But many viewers were taken aback when they watched the Season 7 premiere, and complained that they missed the original Mandy.

Last Man Standing

ABC

During the TCA press tour, Executive Producer Matt Berry explained the Mandy change:

"When the show was cancelled… [Molly Ephraim] got involved in some different things, so when [Last Man Standing] came back, she was not able to do it. It’s unfortunate. We love her deeply. She’s a big part of who we were. But [it’s] exciting for us to look around and see who we can get to play that character. We want someone to come in and not play Molly Ephraim. We want somebody to come in and play Mandy. We’ve seen a lot of great actresses."

Entertainment Weekly talked to showrunner Kevin Abbott after Season 7's big premiere ratings, mentioning the Mandy situation:

EW: There was some blowback online for the recasting (with Molly McCook replacing Molly Ephraim as the Baxters’ daughter). Did that hurt the actress’ feelings? What did you think?

Kevin Abbott: We fully expected it. 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. 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. We had some fun with it in the opening episode [about the physical differences between the actors] and then dropped that. It’s a little jarring then you grow to love her. The actresses feelings were not hurt — well, she said “very briefly” and then she got past it. We hope the audience starts to feel the way we do. She’s not doing an imitation of Molly Ephraim playing Mandy, she’s playing Mandy her own way. We put her in a tough situation in that first episode she’s replacing a beloved actress and we have her in opposition of Mike and Eve who are very well loved obviously. We had to do that for the story but she’s not going to be in opposition to Mike in the upcoming episodes and hopefully they can see her shine.

Actress Molly McCook has been retweeting support from fans, and seeming to take the knee-jerk confusion and complaints in stride. She knew what she was jumping into, but there's hope for more fans to get used to her as Mandy and grow to love her.

Here's part of what she told Entertainment Tonight about the reaction so far:

"We're kind of programmed to be afraid of change and I understand that; I'm the same way. 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."

"Last Man Standing" airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.

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