As a parent and now grandparent, I’ve watched a lot of children’s television with my girls. The Disney Channel being a major favorite, especially through the early teen years. Never have I seen a series like Andi Mack.
Andi Mack is a compelling story of self-discovery written by Terri Minsky, the creator of Disney Channel’s hit series “Lizzie McGuire,” will be available on-demand, beginning FRIDAY, MARCH 10 (12:01 a.m. PST), on the Disney Channel App, Video-on-Demand, Disney.com, Disney Channel YouTube, iTunes, Amazon and Google Play. (Disney Channel)
Andi Mack- “Tomorrow Starts Today” – Andi’s family life is thrown for a loop when her big sister, the freewheeling Bex, returns home on the eve of her 13th birthday. It begins with Bex arranging for Andi to train for Ultimate Frisbee with the cutest guy at school, Jonah Beck, who she learns has a high school age girlfriend, Amber.Ê Andi also grapples with telling her best friends Buffy and Cyrus some big news, but is preoccupied making Jonah Beck a bracelet, at his request.Ê Meanwhile, Cyrus becomes the Space Otters’ official Enthusiastic Supporter, helps them win their first game. This episode of Andi Mack airs Friday, April 07 (8:30 Ð 9:30 P.M. EDT) on Disney Channel.
While in LA for the Be Our Guest Event we also had the pleasure of screening two episodes of Andi Mack, followed by a group interview with with Peyton Elizabeth Lee (“Andi Mack”), Lilian Bowden (“Bex”), Lauren Tom (“Cecilia”), Creator/Executive Producer Terri Minsky and Executive Producer Michelle Manning.
About fifteen minutes into the series, I couldn’t help but fall in-love with Andi, and the entire family. The story starts out with a major twist in the pilot episode, that I didn’t even see coming, but it sets the base for the entire series, and takes the story somewhere I haven’t seen on television before. Andi Mack is a fresh, and welcoming look at real families, with real life topics that touch on mother/daughter tension, family secrets, and even teen pregnancy. Don’t worry this is still The Disney Channel, and this new series is very well written with families in-mind, and features plenty of laugh out loud moments that will entertain all ages.
Q: Where did the idea from this series originate from?
TM: This is weird to say to a large group of people, but I read a profile of Jack Nicholson. He was raised with his mother as his sister and I thought, that’s an interesting idea, you just keep it in your file of ideas and then when somebody says to you, do you have any ideas, you go, yeah, I have Jack Nicholson. So that’s really where it originated from. I wish it was as cool as I know somebody who went through this. That’s where it came from.
Q: When each of you read the script, were you surprised by that reveal? Was it meaty to jump into as an actress?
PEL: Definitely. I think the first time I read it was before I even got the part, right? So you’re reading it and you’re like, this is so amazing. Already just going through the first episode and you think how she’s an amazing writer.
TM: They didn’t even let you read it for the first audition.
PEL: No, not for the first audition. It was much later. But I hadn’t gotten the part yet, so you’re reading it and even the beginning, you’re already thinking it’s so amazing. The voice is so unique and different from everything that you usually see. But then when you get to the end of the first episode, I was like wait, what? Cause you’re just like reading through the script, and… wait, what? And so I had to read the last scene like five times before it really sort of sank in, you know? And then it just made it that more meaningful to me.
LB: It was super surprising. So that reveal was in the sides that I auditioned with and they were the second pair of sides. And the first pair of sides is this super fun lighthearted scene that was closer to the beginning of the pilot. And I remember reading the sides and thinking, oh, my, gosh, this is so funny. This is really funny. This is great. Oh, this is great. You know, oh, this is a Disney show. This is great. And then that second scene when it takes that turn… that was the thing that cinched me, and I was like, I have to get this. It has to be me.
LT: And for me, I really read it thinking this is something that’s got some meat on the bone for me because I didn’t wanna — I have two kids that are 13 and 16 and so in order for me to pull myself away from wanting to be with them, cause that’s when they need you the most, in a way, I thought, I didn’t wanna be that mom, dinner’s ready, you know? I just thought that I would go a little brain dead, but Terri’s writing is just so phenomenal that I was like, yeah, I think I need to attach myself to this for so many reasons, just how innovative it is and the diversity and feeling like when I was growing up, I didn’t have a lot of role models and well, I’m so old that I was watching, you know, the Harriet, whatever that show was where I never felt like I could be those perfect white kids that I was looking at because they just didn’t have anything to do with my reality whatsoever. Whereas this show is so much more real and reflective of what’s going on in the world today. And then also just having so many people of color on it.
Q: Obviously, the age of 12 and 13 is a tough time across the board. Is there a message that you’re trying to get across particular to that age group through this show?
TM: Honestly, my message is watch TV with your parents. My goal is – I have a daughter who’s 22 and a lot of our conversations were generated by shows that we saw on television and it was just like, oh, you watch a Lifetime movie about bullying and just be like, does that ever happen to you? And I totally think that television is a great medium for parents and kids to start a conversation. And that was my goal. It wasn’t so much of a message to the kids. It was more like, I hope this is good enough for mothers and daughters or mothers and parents — I mean children and parents. Generations of family to watch together.
Q: I just wanna say first of all, thank you for doing a multi-cultural show.
TM: I’ve been seeing your Tweets and I was excited to meet you.
Q: I’m raising Asian-American children so it’s really important for my kids to watch this, so can you talk about the importance of a multi-cultural family and the decision to go with that?
MM: The decision to go with it was this one walked in the room and it was, that’s Andi. I mean Terri is writing about a neurotic Jewish kid, really. (Please note – Michelle Manning is referencing that part of Terri Minsky’s creative process is writing about herself, which she self-describes as such.) But then this, Andi walked in and it was like the cast — head of casting said, oh now we’ve gotta find a sister. She was just Andi. when she came in it was that was it.
LB: Yeah. I think the writing, though, speaks so much to the reliability of Andi because Peyton was already cast when I was going in to read for it. And so when I read the script — I didn’t see it any differently than an Asian-American family. I saw Celia as like your archetypal tiger mom, you know? And I really saw Andi as the kid that I was when I was growing up, somebody who was trying really hard to please everybody and trying really hard to figure out my place in the world and dealing — I didn’t have the same type of circumstances, that Andi did. But for me, it didn’t read anything else but an Asian-American family. And for me getting in this is so exciting because I’m biracial as well and when I get cast in roles, there’s always an adjustment that needs to be made where it’s like, oh well, maybe you’re an adopted sister, which are real things like that I’ve gone in for because, you know, the majority of people that we see on TV are Caucasian. So, they’ve had to adjust my back story if they wanted to cast me. And it’s so nice to be able to be in a role where I can be truly myself, you know?
PEL: Yes. Definitely. I think that the fact that there is different ethnicities and stuff on the show, it just makes the show that much more, you know, relatable and exciting. And it’s very different from anything that’s on the air right now. So, I definitely think it’ll be good for people like us and who aren’t just, your average white kid, to be able to see that on the screen.
Q: Your cast mates are about your age and play your friends. Do you make time to hang out with them outside of filming and what are you guys doing to help grow that relationship?
PEL: Yeah, we work a lot and so there isn’t a ton of time on set. But, we’re like family. We spend every moment that we’re not on set, getting dinner or going to a movie or going bowling.
LT: Dance class.
PEL : Dance class. Whatever it is that we wanna do. We’re like family. It’s crazy. I feel like I can tell them anything and they can tell me anything and so we’re all super close, I would say.
LB: She took me to my first ballet class in like 20 years.
PEL: So, I was taking this advanced ballet class in Utah and she didn’t know that it was advanced adult’s ballet. She’s like, I wanna come to ballet and I was like, oh okay.
LB: It was really fun.
Q: On the show, your character’s very crafty. Did you bring any of that to it or was that written?
PEL: So I definitely, growing up, always loved drawing and arts and crafts and stuff. But I think Andi’s definitely more talented than I am. She has a ton of patience for that little stuff that I don’t have. But it’s really fun for me to see all of it. And I think you [pointing to Lilan] were incredibly crafty as a little kid. So, she still is.
MM: Still is.
LT: She made portraits of all of us for Christmas.
PEL: Made out of tape.
LB: Duct tape.
PEL: And they looked like us, actually.
LB: Inspired by the character of Andi. I like her club house, Andi’s shack which has all those arts and crafts. The first time we got to go into it, I was like ooooo!!
PEL: She goes insane. She’s like, can I be in this scene?
Q: Seeing that you’re the same age as the character that you play, are you getting to give some input to things that are in the script?
PEL: Yeah, I definitely think when I read the script I close my eyes and I picture it when we get onto the set, what it’s gonna look like. And so when we get onto the set and we’re blocking it, a lot of the time I’ll be like, this doesn’t feel natural. Maybe if we did this or that line sounds kinda weird and especially when Terri’s on set, she’s so open to any changes. And I can always go up to her and be like, this sounds weird. Could it be this? And, you know, all the time she’s really open to those opinions. And so that has been extremely helpful because a lot of the time you get a script and you’re like, wait, this doesn’t work for me. It’s not true to what I would do, and she’ll adjust that. She’s so open to those opinions that makes the show so much more authentic and raw.
TM: I also try to take from the actors themselves. I mean pretty much everything that Cyrus does is, you know —
PEL: He actually did it.
TM: He actually couldn’t straighten out that motorcycle. He actually couldn’t get the helmet off. I mean he’s adorable and just uniquely, uncoordinated. I just try to do that with all of them. As soon as we cast Peyton, I was just making a mental note of her verbal — how she talks and, frankly, some of our best lines have been improved by Lilan who’s from UCB so, you know, it’s like bonus.
PEL: Lilan is so easy to work with because she’s always giving you something. All the time, every time you take a scene again, she’s giving you something new. So every time it’s different. And so it makes it really easy because nothing’s built up.
LB: I’m not trying to just give it back because you said that but like Peyton is uniquely special. Peyton is as an actress. This gal is so advanced for her age. When I’m working with her, it’s not like working with a kid. It’s like working with a peer. When we talk about things, and we’re talking about scenes, her brain is working at such a mature level that we’re not just teaching each other. We’re exploring something together and that’s what I feel made the show such a great experience to be a part of because it really felt like a collaborative process, not just with the writers, not just with the director.
PEL: We built this world all together and so that’s what’s really exciting about it is we started from words on a page.
Q: We saw some first int e the two episodes that we watched, in later episode will we see more firsts, like first dates?
LB: There will be more firsts. We can say that.
PEL: There definitely will be a lot of firsts. There will definitely be a lot of things that kids watching will hopefully be like, oh yeah, I felt like that before or I’m not the only person who’s felt like that.
LB: Or I can’t wait to feel like that or I hope never to feel like that.
PEL: Exactly. Everything that happens in that show — I think kids around the world will be able to look at it and say, I’m not alone in this. And so I think that’s really important because a lot of the shows, you’re like, can I just be like that one day? I think this show — it’s really relatable and I think everyone, young and old and anywhere in between can really look at it and see themselves in the characters.
TM: Because teenage girls have essentially never changed. And I just think that’s true. I mean, vocabulary or whatever, but I just think the whole experience of thinking, ‘this is the best day, this is the worst day.’ They’re like this volatile up and down, and everything is ‘you don’t understand… you’ve never had this…’ and you’re sitting there going, wow. Yeah just like me. God, I mean I can’t believe it’s so, it’s just whatever you were as a kid is what’s gonna show up one day in their bedroom yelling at you. I think that it’s really great to have Peyton and the other cast members keep me sort of current.
Q: The mother daughter relationship, you guys seem to have like a lot of snarky remarks back and forth to each other. How difficult is it to deliver those lines?
PEL: Incredibly easy.
LT: Well, for me, I mean Peyton once said, hey, we’re all just playing ourselves. And I was like, hey. You know, Michelle said she vouched for me because I’m more like a tiger mom wanna-be, cause I have two kids but I just can’t quite raise them the way that my parents raised me. So I’m actually channeling my own mom when I’m playing this character and it kind of feels natural because she’s in my body.
LB: And I’m channeling my relationship with my own mom.
LT: But I love this girl and I think it’s important for the story to have some of that dramatic conflict going on because, again, that’s also real life. And, mother daughter relationships can be tough. Same gender relationships.
LB: Yeah Lauren is the exact opposite of Celia in so many ways because her heart is so gentle and I remember when we had our first read together, I didn’t get a chance to meet Lauren beforehand and she just was so fierce that it, it intimidated me.
PEL: You met my mom. Imagine growing up with that.
LT: I hope that it comes across how much we love each other on this series, I’ve never been in a cast that has genuinely loved each other.
Don’t miss Andi Mack airing Friday nights, 8:30 P.M. / 9:30 P.M. EDT on the Disney Channel. The Disney Channel App, Video-on-Demand, Disney.com, Disney Channel YouTube, iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.
FTC Disclaimer: I attended an expense paid trip by Disney and ABC to LA press events for Andi Mack. I was not asked or influenced to write a positive blog post. Photo Credit: Coralie Seright – Lovebugs and Postcards. All opinions shared are always honest and my own. This post contains no affiliate links.