See why I’m excited to see a family that looks just like mine on television. We have a sneak peak and exclusive interview with the cast. Disney & ABC invited me out to LA to interview the cast and crew of Andi Mack. All opinions are my own. Travel and accommodations were covered.
Photo Credit: Disney Channel
When I was growing up, I can only recall a few Asian actors in a handful of movies and television shows. Even the toys I grew up with, they were all blonde hair, with the exception of Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony. My favorite Cabbage Patch Dolls all had blonde hair as well. These days, dolls come in all colors! There are also all kinds of television shows and movies with more variety!
Today, there are two shows that feature Asian families: Dr. Ken and Fresh Off The Boat. Now, there will be a third show called Andi Mack! I am pretty sure my childhood would have been much easier if there were shows featuring Asian families. Even the community that I grew up in, there were maybe 20 Asians kids in the entire school.
Andi Mack stars Peyton Elizabeth Lee (Andi), Lilan Bowden (Bex) and Lauren Tom (Cecilia) in a mixed Asian American family. My family and I can relate to the Mack Family because my son is also “mixed.” While the show faces pre-teen and teenage issues, we haven’t gone through any of them yet. Our son has Autism, so we keep him very protected for his overall safety.
Do you remember when you were a pre-teen/teenager? I certainly do. I remember how awkward life could be.
About Andi Mack:
Created and executive-produced by acclaimed writer Terri Minsky (“Lizzie McGuire”), “Andi Mack” is a contemporary, coming-of-age story about a relatable girl who’s trying to determine where she fits in and the many amazing ways she can live her life. On the eve of her 13th birthday her life goes from routine to roller coaster when her free-spirited older sister Bex returns home with a revelation that changes everything, and sends Andi on an uncharted course of self-discovery. At least she’s in good company; her best friends, Cyrus and Buffy, are also figuring out their places in the world. Along the way, Andi learns that sometimes the unexpected is what makes life great.
We interviewed Peyton Elizabeth Lee (“Andi Mack”), Lilan Bowden (“Bex”), Lauren Tom (“Cecilia”), Creator/Executive Producer Terri Minsky and Executive Producer Michelle Manning.
Question: Where did the idea for this series originate from?
Terri Minsky: 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 for a [show], 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, but you do, so that’s like one degree of separation. And, I don’t know if that’s the most satisfying answer, but that’s where it came from.
Question: When each of you read the script, were you surprised by that reveal at the beginning? Was it meaty to jump into as an actress?
Peyton Elizabeth Lee: Definitely. I think the first time I read it was before I even got the part. 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.
Terri Minsky: They didn’t even let you read it for the first audition.
Peyton Elizabeth Lee: 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. And then it just made it that more meaningful to me.
Lilan Bowden: 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. 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.
Lauren Tom: And for me, I really read it thinking this is something that’s got some meat on the bone for me. 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 (Creator/Executive Producer Terri Minsky) writing is just so phenomenal that I think I need to attach myself to this for so many reasons, just how innovative it is, the diversity and feeling like when I was growing up, I didn’t have a lot of role models and I just — well, I’m so old that I was watching, 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.
Question: 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 Minsky: 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.
Photo Credit: Disney Channel/Craig Sjodiin
Question: Andi, 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?
Peyton Elizabeth Lee: So, 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 or —
Lauren Tom: Dance class.
Peyton Elizabeth Lee: 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.
Lilan Bowden: She took me to my first ballet class in like 20 years.
Peyton Elizabeth Lee: So, I’m a dancer.
Lilan Bowden: Yeah, and I’m not.
Peyton Elizabeth Lee: So, I was taking this advanced ballet class in Utah and she didn’t know that it was advanced adult’s ballet. She was like, I wanna come to ballet and I was like, oh okay.
Photo Credit: Disney Channel
Question: On the show, your character’s very crafty. Did you bring any of that to it or was that written?
Peyton Elizabeth Lee: So I think that I definitely, growing up, always loved to do 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 definitely you [pointing to Lilan] were incredibly crafty as a little kid. So, she still is.
Lauren Tom: She (Lilian Bowden) made portraits of all of us for Christmas.
Peyton Elizabeth Lee: Made out of tape.
Lilan Bowden: Duct tape.
Peyton Elizabeth Lee: And they looked like us, actually.
Lilan Bowden: Inspired by the character of Andi. Yeah, 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!!
Peyton Elizabeth Lee: She goes insane. She’s like, can I be in this scene?
Lilan Bowden: As the series goes on, I was trying to find like different ways to like always have a little busy work that was like a craft.
Terri Minsky: That’s surprising when I would see that on — it — would — she’s like, what is she making? She doesn’t make stuff.
Photo Credit: Disney Channel
Question: Seeing that you’re the same age as the character that you play, I know that things are more or less the — a lot of the problems that children face at those ages are more or less the same as they were for me when I was that age, but with technology and other things, things have changed dramatically. Are you getting to give some input to things that are in the script all ready to make some changes when, like you said, your daughter was 20 — is 20 — 22 now? So I am sure you’re taking from experience and people take from the experience. But being that things are a little bit different now, are you able to make some changes?
Peyton Elizabeth Lee: 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 so I can always go up to her and be like, this sounds weird. Could it be this? 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.
Terri Minsky: And I also try to take from the actors themselves. I mean pretty much everything that Cyrus does is, you know —
Peyton Elizabeth Lee: He actually did it.
Terri Minsky: He actually couldn’t straighten out that motorcycle. He actually couldn’t get the helmet off. I mean he’s adorable and just uniquely, you know uncoordinated.
Question: So, in the first and second episode, we saw stuff where you dealt with finding out about your mom and then having — talking about your first crush. In later episode are we gonna see other things like that, like first dates, things like that as the series goes on?
Lilan Bowden: There will be more firsts. We can say that.
Peyton Elizabeth Lee: 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.
Lilan Bowden: Or I can’t wait to feel like that or I hope never to feel like that.
Peyton Elizabeth Lee: 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.
Terri Minsky: 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 like, ‘you don’t understand… you’ve never had this…’
and you’re sitting there going, wow. Yeah just like me. I mean I can’t believe it’s just whatever — whatever you were as a kid is what’s gonna show up one day in their bedroom yelling at you — so I think that it’s really great to have Peyton and the other cast members keep me sort of current.
Question: For you guys, I notice there is a little bit between you guys but it seems like there’s a bad relationship building — but [this question is] more for the grandma.
Lauren Tom: You may never say that word again. But, yeah, is it — so the question is it difficult to say those lines?
Lauren Tom: Well, for me, I mean Peyton once said, hey, we’re all just playing ourselves. And I was like, hey. Michelle (Executive Producer Michelle Manning) said, too, 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 really it kind of feels natural because she’s in my body.
Lilan Bowden: And I’m channeling my relationship with my own mom.
Lauren Tom: But I love this girl and I think it’s important for the story, too, to have some of that dramatic conflict going on because, again, that’s also real life. Mother-daughter relationships can be, they can be tough. Same gender relationships.
Lilan Bowden: 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 intimidated me.
Peyton Elizabeth Lee: Definitely. Really?
Lilan Bowden: Oh it really did.
Peyton Elizabeth Lee: You met my mom. Imagine growing up with that.
Lilan Bowden: We got to do the table read, I was like, I hope she likes me. And then just to find out that there’s just this big sweetheart, who’s just giving and loving and supportive every single day, it was like, wow!
Peyton Elizabeth Lee: Definitely agree. I remember the first time I met you, we were in the room, the Disney room, and I came in and you were like, oh hi. And you were so nice and then they said, ‘And go.’ And you were like what? So, that was really fun to me cause it was such a quick [meeting] so, yeah.
Lauren Tom: I hope that it comes across how much we love each other on this years, I’ve never been in a cast that has genuinely loved each other. Yeah.
“Andi Mack” is geared towards kids, tweens and families, and centers on the most important things in any young person’s life – family, friends and the journey of self-discovery. It reflects themes that reflect Disney Channel’s brand values including expressing yourself, celebrating families, optimism and communication. The one-hour premiere event will debut April 7th at 8:30 pm EST on Disney Channel.
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