‘Last Man Standing’ EP Kevin Abbott on What to Expect When Season 7 Returns
[Warning: The below contains spoilers for the fall finale of Last Man Standing, “The Gift of the Mike Guy.”]
Fox did Last Man Standing fans a serious solid in 2018 by reviving the previously canceled beloved comedy.
Mike Baxter (Tim Allen) and most of the original gang returned, much to viewers’ delight, and there’s no plan to slow down heading into the new year.
TV Insider spoke with EP Kevin Abbott about the show’s triumphant return and what we can expect from the Baxter family when we return from the holiday hiatus in 2019. See what he had to say below.
This Christmas episode had a lot of sweet moments and hinted at Ed’s (Hector Elizondo) possible return to Outdoor Man. Is it safe to say he may be coming out of retirement in the future?
Kevin Abbott: Ed is coming out of retirement, we basically just wanted to shift the dynamics a little bit in the workplace. One of the things a year off gave us was that opportunity to have some things change that would normally take a longer time and that was one of them.
Anytime you’re in a long-running show, you can kind of change the circumstances so the characters have different ways to bounce off each other. I think it’s a really good thing and gives you more stories. In this case, we wanted Ed to no longer be in charge of the place and kind of reverse his and Mike’s standing in the company and see how that provided different stories that might come out it.
Kaitlyn Dever made a surprise appearance at the end of the episode; can we anticipate seeing more of Eve this season?
Absolutely, we’ve actually shot two more episodes with her already and she’ll probably be in another couple. Kaitlyn was one of the actresses that we lost because of other prior contractual agreements. But she wanted to come back and do as many shows as she could, so we get her when we can. We had a little window there, we used her when we could… I believe we’re gonna grab her for another couple. But we love Eve and we wanna have her around as much as we possibly can.
As the episode wrapped up, the whole Baxter gang was gathered together. How are days like that on set? Is it nostalgic? Exciting?
It’s kind of both. It’s great because Kaitlyn’s just marvelous and we love having her around and she’s just such a wonderful presence on the stage. But at the same time… the case with any change, it’s always a little bittersweet. There’s great things that happen and we’re delighted with everyone we have on the cast now. But we loved the old cast, too, and we loved having everyone around. It’s a little bit like a reunion of some of your college friends – it’s marvelous to see them again after so much time, but at the same time, I kind of miss some of those old days.
How does it feel to be heading into 2019 with all-new episodes after the revival?
It’s interesting because, to a certain degree, coming back there was really a great shot of energy. It was an unfortunate cancellation, which was jarring. There’s also an unforeseen return, so there was a lot of enthusiasm. And the time off helped everyone kind of capture… their energy back and recapture the enthusiasm because when you’ve been doing a show for a long time, there’s a certain amount of, ‘the treadmill goes on’ feeling. Taking the time off gives you the chance to step back and appreciate what we really had.
It’s weird for a seven season show to feel like, ‘Oh, we’re doing a new show’ – it felt like a start-up. We’re shooting Episode 14 now, the grind has kicked in quite a bit again, but it still feels very fresh to us. So if anything, the only emotion out there is a little bit of gun shyness about, ‘Will we be picked up again?’ Because it happened to us before when we didn’t see it coming…
In this business, you try to concentrate on the now, you just have no guarantee of the future. And in that sense, I think everybody’s having a great time. I think as we wind down towards the back five [episodes] or something it’ll start to feel like, ‘God I don’t want this to be over yet because I don’t know if we get to do more of them.’
What should fans look forward to for the Baxters when they return in January?
We have one [episode] coming up in February on the 15th, where Chuck (Jonathan Adams) and Carol get remarried. That’s a really great episode — it’s gonna be part of a back-to-back where we’re stringing a B-story through both episodes. That’s the one we’re shooting this week and it’s fantastic.
We’ve got some big developments with Mandy (Molly McCook) and Kyle (Christoph Sanders) coming up which we’re really excited about. And we have this lovely large, extended family now — Jay Leno’s on all the time with Bill Engvall back this week, who we’d love to get back again. Tisha Campbell is playing Carol, Chuck’s wife, and she’s gonna be on for a few and we hope to bring Vanessa’s mom back. We just have a really large rotating cast of characters now that we’re getting a lot of fun out of. I think will be great.
You’ve had a few different guest stars this season. Will anyone else be showing up or returning?
Well, I mean we had Vanessa’s (Nancy Travis) mom, Susan Sullivan. We’d like to get her back for at least another [episode] – she was fantastic and we just love that dynamic. We are planning on bringing in Kyle’s brother – one of Kyle’s brothers – who he has a very complicated relationship with. Can’t tell you who’s gonna be that yet, but we think it’s gonna be really exciting and really fun… We hope to get Reba [McEntire] back for another episode… There’s 8 [episodes] remaining after this one, so we’re trying to whittle down and figure out if the schedules line up.
The show has covered so many different topics this season. Is there any episode that stands out as a personal favorite?
This season has been so satisfying already. I mean, I think just the sheer diversity of topics and relationships we’ve covered has been really rewarding. Again, when you get into a show that’s this late in its run, there’s oftentimes a feeling of, ‘Haven’t we done this?’ And we really haven’t run into that at all this year, which has been really fantastic. I think if one episode had to leap out for me, it would be the one Matt Berry wrote with Mike’s dad (“Man vs. Myth”). I thought was just very telling and really terrific. I just loved that one.
What’s your personal experience with fans been like since the show returned?
People are nice enough not to tell me they hate it to my face. [Laughs] I tend to get the enthusiastic ones and what I really have found since we returned is just the unbelievable support and loyalty — especially in this day and age. We’ve got such a core group of fans that keep coming back, we have a number of fans that actually come to every taping, that are just so excited about it… It always kind of surprises me, especially because on ABC a lot of people didn’t even know we were on the air. The awareness level is much higher right now, it seems to me, and I get a lot more feedback because of that.
Last Man Standing, Returns Friday, January 4, 8/7c, Fox