While its central stars have remained constant, “Last Man Standing” cannot say the same of its peripheral characters. The show has run through a lot of young actors and actresses over the course of its tenure. And that high turnover may have left some audience members scratching their heads.
The first major change happened in Season 2, per TV Line. Eldest Baxter daughter Kristin, played by Alexandra Krosney, underwent a remarkable transformation between Season 1 and Season 2 as Amanda Fuller replaced Krosney.
Another big change in Season 2: Jordan Masterson replaced Nick Jonas as Boyd Baxter’s father.
‘Last Man Standing’ Cast Changes Escalated Through the Seasons
Then there’s Boyd Baxter. Mike Baxter’s grandson was originally played by twins Evan and Luke Kruntchev. In Season 2, Flynn Morrison took over. In Season 7, when the show switched over from ABC to Fox, Jet Jurgensmeyer began to play Boyd.
Another Season 7 change was to the Carol Larabee character. Suddenly, the actress playing her was not Erika Alexander but Tisha Campbell. The two actresses don’t look much alike, but that had never stopped “Last Man Standing” producers before.
Finally, in Season 7, the show also replaced Mandy Baxter actress Molly Ephraim with Molly McCook. There was definitely some fan backlash to that.
“We fully expected [the blowback],” executive producer and showrunner Kevin Abbott told TV Line in 2018. “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.”
“When Molly McCook walked in, we thought, ‘That’s not going to work. Physically that’s not going to work,’” he added. “Then we thought, ‘She’s the best actress, let’s go with it.’”
Showrunner Says Tim Allen Deserved Credit for Contributions to Show
In the end, “Last Man Standing” star Tim Allen got his first series writing credit on the last episode of the show. And Abbott explained to The Wrap that Allen has given them so much – Mike’s responses, storylines, throughlines and jokes – that it seemed only fitting to put his name on the series finale.
“The show is group-written every week with the writers. And then we will assign the ‘written by’ credit based on who contributed the most,” he said. “When it came to the final episode, of any season, normally it would be [executive producer and writer] Matt [Berry] or I that would take it… But when we got to this one, neither one of us really wanted to take it.”
“So [Berry] came up with the idea, why don’t we give it to Tim and put Tim’s name on it? I said that’s exactly what we should do, because Tim is a big collaborator and a big part of every episode,” Abbott continued. “We went to Tim and asked him if that would be OK. And he was very, very honored to have that, because he earned it over the course of the series with all of his input.”
True to Allen’s sense of humor, the final episode was full of jokes that nodded to “Home Improvement” or took jabs at a “stupid, stupid network.” (Although they love Fox, Abbott hastened to clarify.) There was even a line about “Neil’s son” that was a poke at Nielsen TV ratings, which they ended up taking out.
Ultimately, one last hour was probably not enough for “Last Man Standing” fans. But as those earlier actors and actresses learned, even good things must eventually come to an end.