Last Man Standing showrunner Kevin Abbott said that the original Mandy and Kristin actresses were almost brought back for the show’s final season.
Last Man Standing considered bringing the original Kristin and Mandy actresses for the final season. Created by Jack Burditt, the Tim Allen-led sitcom follows Mike Baxter (Allen), a family man and an executive at a Denver, Colorado, sporting goods store. As a father of three daughters, Mike must balance his work and home life while maintaining his masculinity in a household full of women. After a rather tumultuous road, the series wrapped up its ninth and final season Thursday night with the one-hour finale, “Keep On Truckin’.”
The series initially aired on ABC for six seasons before the network abruptly announced its cancelation in 2017, much to the surprise of fans. Following the cancelation, CMT was in talks to pick up the show, but the network was unwilling to cover the production costs. After overwhelming demand from fans who started an online petition that reached almost half a million signatures, the series was revived at Fox for the 2018 fall season. Along with Allen, the series starred Nancy Travis as Mike’s wife Vanessa, Amanda Fuller as oldest daughter Kristin, Molly McCook as middle daughter Mandy, and Kaitlyn Dever as youngest daughter Eve. The series went through multiple cast changes throughout its nine seasons, most notably with the recasting for Mandy, who was played by Molly Ephraim in the first six seasons before being replaced by McCook in season 7. Kristin was also originally played by Alexandra Krosney in season 1, before being replaced by Fuller in season 2. While both Ephraim and Krosney left the series for different reasons, fans nearly saw the two make a reappearance for the final season.
In an interview with TVLine, Last Man Standing showrunner Kevin Abbott said that they considered bringing Krosney and Ephraim back for cameo appearances. Before bringing Allen’s iconic Home Improvement character to the show, they discussed bringing the actresses back as a promotion for the final season.
“You know, it’s funny… We actually did [consider it]. At the beginning of the year, Fox had asked, ‘Can you do something that’s promotable at the start of the season?’ We felt like the time jump was promotable, but it’s tough. We were kicking around ideas prior to landing on Home Improvement’s Tim Taylor coming on the show, and that was in there.”
Abbott went on to say that both Ephraim and Krosney would have had to agree to come back, and “I’m not certain that would have been accomplished.” He said that of the two departures, “one of those was not our decision…[and] I don’t think attitudes have softened during the last four years.” Abbott continued by saying, “We kicked around some funny ideas, and if there was one that was funny enough to justify it, I would have given it a shot. I would have called some people, but we never really had it. And then once we [landed on] Tim Taylor coming on, it just felt like that’d be too many meta jokes in a season.”
While it’s common for a sitcom that lasts as long as nine seasons to have a few cast changes, one of the departures was quite early on in the show. Fans might have found it more strange than nostalgic to see the two characters be replaced with the original actors after Fuller and McCook have since been playing them. The return of Home Improvement’s Tim Taylor was probably the better decision and made for a more special finale for Last Man Standing.