LOS ANGELES -- The only name dropped more than Tim Allen at Thursday’s “Last Man Standing” panel was Trump.
It wasn’t a surprising line of questioning from the journalists assembled for the Television Critics Association panel, as Allen is an outspoken conservative and the show’s cancellation at ABC in 2017 caused an uproar among fans who claimed the ax came down because the show also carried that conservative voice. Fox resurrected the show in the spring.
Allen offered a sort of disclaimer for the crowd at the top of Thursday’s panel in Beverly Hills with the rest of the cast and creative team.
“I am not the character I play,” he said.
As for what role President Donald Trump will have in the world of the show, Allen and showrunner Kevin Abbott plan to keep Mike Baxter a centrist, for now.
“The dude (Trump) is flying the plane right now and there is really no reason to get him out of the pilot seat before we land,” Allen said. “(Mike) is a practical guy. He owns a big business and if it’s helping his business, he’s probably pro-Trump. But I don’t know if it’s going to be that. I think the guy is kind of a centrist. Whatever is good for his business and Colorado.”
But when Abbott said he doesn’t think the show will even comment on Trump, Allen quickly responds, “Oh yes we will.”
When it arrives on Fox this fall, “Last Man Standing” won’t have the same Baxter family photo hanging over the mantle.
The majority of the cast remains intact, but Molly Ephraim, who played Baxter daughter Mandy, will not be returning and will be recast.
Executive producer Matt Berry called her absence “unfortunate,” but said it is exciting to look for her replacement.
“We want someone to come in and not play Molly Ephraim,” he said. “We want someone to come in and play Mandy.”
Kaitlyn Dever, who played youngest daughter Eve Baxter, also won’t return full time.
“She will be with us when she can,” said Abbott.
Those absences will be filled, at least in part, by the inclusion of a surprising character: a Chinese foreign exchange student.
Abbott said the storyline will be born from Vanessa’s (Nancy Travis) time as a foreign exchange student when she was younger. And yes, the student will have friction with Mike.
“You have a student from a different political system and then you have Mike Baxter who is going to talk up the American Way,” Abbott said.
Although the show is transitioning to Fox, the show’s cancellation was never far from the conversation. Allen has previously stoked the fires of those claims ABC nixed the show because of its conservative voice.
But Thursday, he had a different answer.
“I think it was a financial decision by ABC,” he said. “But I also think it was too early and we are here because of that."
As for what the show will look like on Fox versus ABC, Berry said the core of “Last Man Standing” is still there.
“This is a show about a family who stays together no matter what,” he said.
Hunter Ingram can be reached at 910-343-2327 or Hunter.Ingram@StarNewsOnline.com. Hunter is a member of the Television Critics Association.