The Disney Channel has a new show that will give you plenty to talk about with your kids. Andi Mack stars Peyton Elizabeth (Andi Mack), Lauren Tom (Celia Mack), and Lilan Bowden (Bex Mack), 3 strong Asian-American women that are determined to bring multicultural families to the forefront, and with this show, they are doing just that.
Terri Minsky (Creator), Michelle Manning (Executive Producer), Lauren Tom (Celia Mack), Lilan Bowden (Bex Mack) and Peyton Elizabeth (Andi Mack) sat down and gave us an inside look at Andi Mack.
Where did the idea for this series originate?
Terri: This is weird to say to a large group of people, but I read a profile of Jack Nicholson, being raised by his mother as his sister. 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 the series originated. I wish it were as cool as, “I know somebody who went through this,” but you do, so that’s like one degree of separation.
When each of you read the script, were you surprised by that reveal?
Peyton: Definitely. I think the first time I read it was before I even got the part. So I’m reading the script, and I’m like, “this is so amazing.” Already just going through the first episode and you think how she’s an amazing writer.
Terri: They didn’t even let you read it for the first audition.
Peyton: No, not for the first audition. It was much later. But I hadn’t gotten the part yet. 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 sank in, you know? And then it just made it that more meaningful to me.
Lilian: 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. I remember reading the sides and thinking, “Oh, my, gosh, this is so funny.” You know, oh, this is a Disney show. It’s 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.
Lauren: And for me, I read it thinking, “This is something that’s got some meat on the bone.” I have two kids that are 13 and 16, and so for me to pull myself away from them, cause that’s when they need you the most. I didn’t wanna be that mom, “Dinner’s ready,” you know?
Paying that, I would go a little brain dead, but Terri’s writing is just so phenomenal. 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 model. I’m so old that whatever that show I was watching, never did I feel 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 with this show, 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.
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?
Terri: Honestly, my message is to 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. 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 my goal wasn’t so much of a message to the kids. I just hope this is good enough for generations of families to watch together.
Can you talk about the importance of a multi-cultural family to be on television?
Michelle: The decision to go with it was, (looking at Peyton), this one walked in the room, and that’s Andi. I mean Terri is writing about a neurotic Jewish kid. (Michelle is referencing that part of Terri Minsky’s creative process is writing about herself, which she self-describes as a neurotic Jewish kid.) But then Andi walked in, and that was it.
Lilian: Yeah. I think the writing, though, speaks so much to the relatability 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 your archetypical tiger mom, you know? I saw Andi as the kid that I was when growing up. Somebody who was trying hard to please everybody and trying hard to like figure out my place in the world. 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 this role is so exciting because I’m biracial as well. When I get cast in roles, there’s always an adjustment that needs to be made where it’s like, maybe you’re an adopted sister. 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.
Peyton: Yes. Definitely. I think that the fact that there are different ethnicities and stuff on the show, it just makes the show that much more relatable and exciting. And it’s very different from anything that’s on the air right now. So, I think it’ll be good for people who are like us and aren’t just your average white kid and to be able to see that on the screen.
In the one-hour premiere “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.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. Meanwhile, Cyrus becomes the Space Otters’ official Enthusiastic Supporter and helps them win their first game.
Andi Mack makes its television debut with a one-hour premiere event FRIDAY, APRIL 7 (8:30-9:30 p.m. EDT).