“Where do you get your ideas?”
That’s a question that folks who work in the Entertainment industry often get asked. In the case of “Andi Mack,” Terri Minsky traces the inspiration for this new Disney Channel series back to an article she once read about a certain Academy Award-winner.
“I remember once reading this profile of Jack Nicholson and how he learned that the woman he thought was his mother was actually his grandmother and that the woman that he thought was his sister was actually his mom,” Minsky recalled during a recent phone call. “And my heart really went out to the guy. Because I believe that Nicholson only learned about this family secret after his grandmother & mother had passed away.”
“I mean, think about it. Learning when you’re an adult that whatever you thought your life was, you were totally wrong about … Something like that would have to rock your world. You’d have to reassess everything,” Terri continued. “But then I thought: What if – when you learned a big family secret like this – you weren’t an adult? But – rather – a 13 year-old girl?”
And out of that slender story thread, Minsky spun out the Disney Channel’s first original serialized series. Which – judging by how well “Andi Mack” ‘s one-hour premiere did in the ratings (i.e., 14.4 million views to date. 9 million Total Viewers on linear TV and – since March 10th – an impressive 5.4 million view across various digital platforms including YouTube, Disney Channel Video-on-Demand and the Disney Channel App) -- this comedy-drama obviously made a very quick connection with its target audience of kids, tweens and families.
So what exactly was it about this mom-is-now-grandma-and-sis-is-now-mom material that so excited Terri?
“I have to admit that I have always been fascinated with the mother / daughter dynamic. ‘Finding Carter,’ that show I did for MTV, explored this issue as well,” Terri explained. “But with ‘Andi Mack’ … Given that this was a comedy for Disney Channel, getting the tone just right was a real challenge.”
Mind you, given Minsky’s history with Disney Channel (She was the creator of “Lizzie McGuire,” this cable channel’s first big break-out series. And as the writer of that show’s pilot & a follow-up episode, Terri then created the template which this hugely popular program followed for its 65-episode run), executives there were willing to put a lot of faith in her talents. Which Minsky definitely appreciates.
“If we didn’t find just the right girl to play our title character, ‘Andi Mack’ was never going to work. But the folks at Disney Channel understood that. They believed in the story that we were trying to tell here. Which is why they totally supported us throughout the casting process,” Terri stated.
“And then … Well, thank God that Peyton (Elizabeth Lee) came along. Andi as a character only existed as words on a page, and I wasn't sure at all what she looked or sounded like until Peyton walked into the room. Looking at her, you really believe that Andi is this 13-year old girl who’s just now coming into her own,” Minsky enthused. “And then when this big family secret gets revealed and Andi has to reassess everything she knows about her world … What’s really great about Peyton is that she can easily handle both the drama & the comedy of this character. We’re honestly so lucky that she auditioned for this role.”
“Lilan comes from Upright Citizen’s Brigade. So she’s improv-ing all the time. And I have taken total advantage of that. Some of our best lines of dialogue are just things that Lilan’s come up with on the set,” Minsky said. “And Lauren Tom is the complete opposite of some of the dialogue that we have given her character. Lauren just really wants to be able to embrace Andi & support Andi & have her character Celia be able to tell Andi that she loves her. And I just have to keep telling Lauren ‘You have to wait. That’s the character that you’re playing. And don’t forget that Celia has another daughter.’ “
And speaking of waiting … Given that “Andi Mack” is Disney Channel’s first original serialized show and that there are still plenty of questions that have yet to be answered (Like … If Bex is actually Andi’s Mom, well then who’s her Dad?), it would probably be wise to check out the third episode of this series. Which airs tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET / PT.
“I promise you that – over the first season of ‘Andi Mack’ – we will gradually reveal who Andi’s Dad is,” Terri teased. “And since there’s a genuine serialized story that we’re trying to tell here, you’re probably going to want to catch all the episodes through June.”
That – in the end – is what Minsky’s ultimate goal is for “Andi Mack.” Create the sort of a show that parents & kids can sit together and enjoy. Create the sort of serialized story that the whole family can follow / be excited about what happens next.
“Some of the most interesting and important discussions I’ve had with my kids have been sparked by something we saw on a television show,” Terri stated. “Which is why I’m kind of hoping that ‘Andi Mack’ can then become that sort of series for a lot of families.”
“Because my daughter and I – she’s 22 now – we watch the same shows and then talk about them. Of course, these days, it’s more ‘American Horror Story’ and ‘Orange Is the New Black,’” Minsky laughed. “This is the kind of show I would have wanted to watch with her, except now she’s at college, so unfortunately I can’t.”