Last Man Standing boss: 'We fully expected' Mandy recast backlash

Last Man Standing‘s much-ballyhooed Mandy switcheroo went over like a lead balloon. But the show’s higher-ups anticipated — and were prepared for — the blowback.

In Friday’s premiere, Molly McCook made her debut as the Baxters’ daughter Mandy, succeeding the character’s original portrayer, Molly Ephraim, who opted not to return for the Fox revival. The response, at least from TVLine readers, was largely negative.

See Molly Ephraim, the original Mandy:

17 PHOTOS
Molly Ephraim of the original Last Man Standing
See Gallery
Molly Ephraim of the original Last Man Standing
LAST MAN STANDING - 'Heavy Meddle' - When Eve's boyfriend, Rob (guest star Travis Tope), doesn't invite her to his parents' anniversary party, Vanessa feels that Eve should tell him how this makes her feel. But Mike disagrees and thinks it's better for Eve to not say anything. Meanwhile, Kristin and Ryan think it's beyond the airy Mandy and Kyle to find the hidden clues in an escape room, on 'Last Man Standing,' airing FRIDAY, MARCH 17 (8:00-8:31 p.m. EST), on The ABC Television Network. (Kelsey McNeal/ABC via Getty Images) MOLLY EPHRAIM
LAST MAN STANDING - 'My Name Is Rob' - It's Christmas dinner at The Baxters, and the time has finally come for Eve to introduce her new boyfriend, Rob (Travis Tope), to her dad, Mike, and the rest of the clan. After learning about a secret Rob's been keeping, Mike questions whether or not he approves of this guy for his daughter. Meanwhile, Mandy puts Kristin up to dropping hints to Kyle on what to get her for Christmas, but he's got something else in mind that's sure to surprise her, on 'Last Man Standing,' airing FRIDAY, DECEMBER 16 (8:00-8:31 p.m. EST), on the ABC Television Network. (Nicole Wilder/ABC via Getty Images) MOLLY EPHRAIM
LAST MAN STANDING - 'Shoveling Snow' -- After a big snowstorm, Eve is thrilled because now she can start her annual snow shoveling business. But when she finds out her neighbor has beaten her to it, she gets a lesson from Mike on capitalism and the free market, on 'Last Man Standing,' FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8 (8:00-8:31 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Tony Rivetti/ABC via Getty Images) AMANDA FULLER, MOLLY EPHRAIM
LAST MAN STANDING - 'Heavy Meddle' - When Eve's boyfriend, Rob (guest star Travis Tope), doesn't invite her to his parents' anniversary party, Vanessa feels that Eve should tell him how this makes her feel. But Mike disagrees and thinks it's better for Eve to not say anything. Meanwhile, Kristin and Ryan think it's beyond the airy Mandy and Kyle to find the hidden clues in an escape room, on 'Last Man Standing,' airing FRIDAY, MARCH 17 (8:00-8:31 p.m. EST), on The ABC Television Network. (Kelsey McNeal/ABC via Getty Images) MOLLY EPHRAIM
LAST MAN STANDING - 'The Force' - Mike and Vanessa want Eve to focus on applying for college, but when she finally chooses where she will attend, her firm decision is not the one they expected. Meanwhile, Kyle and Mandy think they're doing the right thing when they preserve the legacy of Ed's recently deceased dog by having him stuffed, on 'Last Man Standing,' FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 3 (8:00-8:31 p.m. EST), on the ABC Television Network. (Craig Sjodin/ABC via Getty Images) MOLLY EPHRAIM, HECTOR ELIZONDO
LAST MAN STANDING - 'Explorers' - Mike is thrilled when he is offered to submit an artifact to a renowned museum but things get complicated when Ed admits that this is an honor he's wanted his entire life. Meanwhile, Mike and his poker buddies decide to go through their colonoscopy prep together; and the girls decide to have a slumber party reminiscent of old times, but things don't go as planned when Vanessa invites herself, on 'Last Man Standing,' airing FRIDAY, JANUARY 13 (8:00-8:31 p.m. EST), on the ABC Television Network. (Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images) MOLLY EPHRAIM, NANCY TRAVIS
LAST MAN STANDING - 'Trick or Treat' - It's Halloween and the Baxter family is excited for their annual party, except for Mike who's reluctantly tasked with choosing the theme. In hopes of turning everyone against the holiday, Mike decides that maybe if the whole family has to dress up like each other they'll end up making fun of one another. Eve dresses up like Mandy and Mandy dresses down like Eve, Kristin and Ryan swap roles, and Mike shows up to the party as... Donald Trump!? The impersonating turns into bickering but in the end, the Baxters come together to support Vanessa as she learns that she's being laid off, on 'Last Man Standing,' FRIDAY, OCTOBER 21 (8:00-8:31 p.m. EDT), on the ABC Television Network. (Tony Rivetti/ABC via Getty Images) KAITLYN DEVER, TIM ALLEN, MOLLY EPHRAIM
LAST MAN STANDING - 'A New Place for One of Our People' - Having a difficult time supporting Eve's gap year, Mike gives her a hard lesson on surviving in the real world, but Eve's unexpected reaction throws Mike for a loop. Meanwhile, Kyle wants to give Mandy the best wedding gift imaginable, so taking inspiration from a story he read online, he works on turning a laser pointer into a car by way of some old-fashioned bartering, on 'Last Man Standing,' FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 4 (8:00-8:31 p.m. EDT), on the ABC Television Network. (Tony Rivetti/ABC via Getty Images) MOLLY EPHRAIM, CHRISTOPH SANDERS
LAST MAN STANDING - 'Gameday Forecast: Showers' - When a Jack and Jill wedding shower for Mandy and Kyle is announced, Mike is disappointed to learn it's on the same day as the big Broncos-Chargers game. In an effort to catch the game with Joe (Jay Leno) and the guys, Mike convinces the couple to hold separate showers. Ryan offers to host the men's festivities at his place, and to Mike's dismay, he's more into party planning than anyone would have thought. Meanwhile, Ed's convinced that sticking to his superstitious rituals is the only way to see to it that the Broncos pull out a big win, even if it means interfering with Mandy's wedding shower, on 'Last Man Standing,' FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30 (8:00-8:31 p.m. EDT), on the ABC Television Network. (Tony Rivetti/ABC via Getty Images) MOLLY EPHRAIM
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 14: Actress Molly Ephraim arrives at the ABC TCA 'Winter Press Tour 2015' Red Carpet on January 14, 2015 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage)
LAST MAN STANDING - 'Changing Light Bulbs' - When Mike realizes Vanessa has given away his remaining and beloved incandescent light bulbs, he and Chuck go on a mission to track down some of the old-school bulbs. Meanwhile, Mandy announces she's moving out of the house into her own apartment but leaves out a major detail, on 'Last Man Standing,' FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 21 (8:00-8:31 p.m., ET/PT) on the ABC Television Network. (Nicole Wilder/ABC via Getty Images) MOLLY EPHRAIM, NANCY TRAVIS
LAST MAN STANDING - 'Stud Muffin' - The Baxter's neighbor Chuck Larabee stops by with his German Shepard, Lady, to let them know that their tiny dog, Muffin, has impregnated his dog. Chuck is very selective about who Lady breeds with because purebred German Shepard puppies are in demand, and he's not pleased at the litter of mutts Muffin has caused. Meanwhile, Eve takes the highroad and leaves a note on the parked car that Mandy hit, but somehow Mandy reaps the benefits of her sister's integrity, on 'Last Man Standing,' FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 28 (8:00-8:31 p.m., ET/PT) on the ABC Television Network. (Nicole Wilder/ABC via Getty Images) KAITLYN DEVER, MOLLY EPHRAIM
LAST MAN STANDING - 'Elfie' - In the spirit of Christmas, the sometimes self-absorbed Mandy plays Santa by anonymously arranging a holiday surprise for Blanca, the Baxters' housekeeper. Also, when Vanessa gives Boyd a 'magical' Elf doll, Ryan wants to tell Boyd it is just a doll, but Mike wants to prove to Ryan that a little Christmas spirit is not a bad thing, on 'Last Man Standing,' FRIDAY, DECEMBER 13 (8:00-8:31 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Nicole Wilder/ABC via Getty Images) MOLLY EPHRAIM
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 08: Actress Molly Ephraim attends the Woodcraft Rangers 90th anniversary celebration at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes on May 8, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
LAST MAN STANDING - 'Bridezilla vs. The Baxters' - As the big day approaches, Mandy has turned into a full-blown bridezilla. She fires her wedding planner, puts her whole family to work and refuses to let Kyle wear sneakers with his suit. Tired of Mandy's behavior, Ed opts out of the festivities all together, leaving Mandy to re-cast the role of Kyle's best man. In the end, Mandy realizes that all she really needs on their wedding day is to be surrounded by family, and the most important thing of all is her love for Kyle, on 'Last Man Standing,' FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 11 (8:00-8:31 p.m. EST), on the ABC Television Network. (Nicole Wilder/ABC via Getty Images) CHRISTOPH SANDERS, MOLLY EPHRAIM
LAST MAN STANDING - ABC's 'Last Man Standing' stars Molly Ephraim as Mandy Baxter. (Bob D'Amico ABC/ via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 08: Molly Ephraim attends 2018 HFPA and InStyle's TIFF Celebration at the Four Seasons Hotel on September 8, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for InStyle)
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“We fully expected [the backlash],” exec producer Kevin Abbott tells EW.com. “You don’t take a character played by an actress that’s beloved and suddenly switch them out. I’m glad they missed Molly Ephraim; that’s a good thing. And they’re going to go through the same process we did in casting.”

Abbott admits that, initially, he and his fellow EPs did not respond favorably to the recast either. “When Molly McCook walked in we thought, ‘That’s not going to work. Physically that’s not going to work.’ And then she’s just so good. We thought maybe another character? Then we thought she’s the best actress, let’s go with it.

“It’s a little jarring then you grow to love her,” Abbott adds. “We hope the audience starts to feel the way we do.”

See Molly McCook, the new Mandy:

11 PHOTOS
Molly McCook of the revived Last Man Standing
See Gallery
Molly McCook of the revived Last Man Standing
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 19: Actress Molly McCook attends the premiere of Amazon's series 'Hand Of God' at Ace Theater Downtown LA on August 19, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 30: Molly McCook attends the Unauthorized O.C. Musical One Night Only Event presented by Original Penguin at The Montalban on August 30, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Original Penguin)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 18: Molly McCook arrives at Screamfest 2016 - Opening Night Screening of 'Trash Fire' at TCL Chinese Theatre on October 18, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 30: Molly McCook arrives to the Los Angeles premiere of Netflix's 'Sierra Burgess Is A Loser' held at ArcLight Hollywood on August 30, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 23: Actress Molly McCook arrives at EcoLuxe Lounge at Sundance16 - Day 1 - 2016 Park City on January 23, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for EcoLuxe)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 21: Actress Molly McCook attends the 4th annual 'Lights Camera Cure' benefiting Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA and the Four Diamonds Fund at Avalon on March 21, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
CULVER CITY, CA - JULY 18: Actress Molly McCook attends the 'Princess And Pirates' sing-along concert opening night at The Kirk Douglas Theatre on July 18, 2014 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 01: Actress Molly McCook attends the Los Angeles Premiere of '10 Rules For Sleeping Around' at the Egyptian Theatre on April 1, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Vincent Sandoval/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 23: Molly McCook attends Rock Way Fundraiser at Beso on March 23, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/WireImage)
NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 18: Molly McCook attends new web series 'Never Fade Away' Come As You Are launch party on April 18, 2012 in North Hollywood, California. (Photo by Brian To/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 18: LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 18 *** EXCLUSIVE ***: Actress Molly McCook performs At Six Flags Magic Mountain on July 18, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tiffany Rose/WireImage)
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Over the summer, fellow Last ManStanding exec producer Matt Berry lamented Ephraim’s decision not to reprise her role. “When the show was cancelled [on ABC]… [Molly] got involved in some different things, so when [Last Man Standing] came back, she was not able to do it,” the EP said. “It’s unfortunate. We love her deeply. She’s a big part of who we were.”

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