After four seasons, more than 85 episodes and the formation of four major Disney stars, “Austin & Ally” is coming to an end. The popular kids sitcom airs its series finale on Sunday, Jan. 10.
Premiering in December 2011, the music genre comedy created by tween TV vets Kevin Kopelow and Heath Seifert made stars of the titular characters Ross Lynch and Laura Marano, who spent much of the series as an on-and-off couple, creating a passionate fan base that followed the cast’s every move, both on and off the screen.
“We were blessed with an amazing cast, and we knew our fans would love them as much as we did,” the co-creators — who also worked on “All That,” “Kenan & Kel,” “Good Burger” and Demi Lovato’s “Sonny With A Chance” — tell Variety, admitting that they’re not surprised by the show’s success, thanks to Lynch, who plays Austin; Marano, who plays Ally; Raini Rodriguez who plays Trish; and Calum Worthy, who plays Dez.
With the group’s journey coming to an end, the final episode, titled “Musicals & Moving On,” sees the foursome all prepping for the next phase of their lives, but Trish is still determining what her next steps will be.
Here in a joint interview, co-creators Kopelow and Seifert tell Variety about the final days on set, favorite memories with the cast — plus, could there be an “Austin & Ally” movie?
Why is it the right time to end the show?
We would have loved to continue the show forever. Our dream when we started the show was to hit a hundred episodes and we came pretty close. We still had a lot of stories we wanted to tell, but the average Disney show usually only goes three or four seasons. In fact, our show was as good as done after season three, but we worked really hard to get those last episodes. It was interesting because we had to write the end of season three as if it was going to be the last. When we did the season four finale, we knew we were done.
There have been some rumors about an “Austin & Ally” movie — any truth to that?
We will never say never. We have lots of ideas for one, and we’d love nothing more than to work with the cast again, either as their “Austin & Ally” characters, or otherwise.
What will you miss most about the show?
The cast and crew. It was a very special set. Anytime anyone would visit, they would marvel at what a harmonious and positive environment we’d created. It was truly a family. We still talk to the cast all the time, and our greatest takeaway from the whole experience is the lifelong friendships we gained.
What was the last day on set like?
Very emotional. The whole season was very emotional because we knew the show was ending. The last few weeks, everybody was constantly crying and hugging. Every day there was a “last” something — “Oh, this is the last time Ross and Laura will be sitting at a piano together,” “this is the last performance,” “this is the last time we’ll be in the practice room,” etc. By the time we finished shooting on the last day, nobody wanted to leave. We hung out for hours afterwards.
Is it possible to choose one favorite memory from the show’s four-season run?
There are so many. We were just talking the other day about when we shot the pilot in front of a live audience. When we introduced the cast at the top of the show, there was polite applause, but by the end of the taping, the audience was going nuts. It was clear to us that we’d gotten something special. The live tapings were always fun. There’s nothing more satisfying than adding a new joke in the middle of a scene and watching a fresh reaction. One favorite moment was when we had our own prom on the stage for the cast and crew after shooting the prom episode. Everyone got dressed up, and it was a great party.
The cast was so young when the show began. How have the actors changed since the show premiered?
In a way, they haven’t changed that much. They never got big egos or attitudes. They were genuine, professional and humble when we met them, and they still are. Of course, they’ve matured and watching them grow into the amazing people they are has been incredible. We always call them the “kids,” but we mean that as a totally affectionate term. We love them like they are our kids.
Do you recall anything special from the auditions?
We remember each of “the Core Four” having great auditions. We like to spend some time talking to actors and getting a feel for them as people before they perform for us, and we really loved all of them out of the gate. Raini made us laugh so much that we almost forgot to ask her to perform her scene — we remember her joking about having to come in so early in the morning for the audition. Calum brought his own handmade props. Laura had to perform this ridiculously long monologue and she just nailed it — we heard it a hundred times, performed by tons of actors, and it’s remarkable that Laura was able to make us laugh and make it feel so fresh and funny after all that time. In the pilot script, we mentioned that Austin can play every instrument ever, and then Ross came in, and he really could.
How will the cast and crew keep in touch?
We have an ongoing group text with the cast, and we try to see them whenever we can. We are all going to watch the finale together (except for Ross, who will be in Japan).
When the series ends, are Austin and Ally still a couple? Will the finale shed light on what their future together (or not together) would have been?
Sorry, spoilers. You will have to watch and see what happens. There are still a lot of surprises.
If the show were to continue for another five, 10 or 20 years, how would you envision the characters and their relationships in the future?
There are so many directions their lives can take. We think they will always be best friends and continue to have adventures together like they do now.
Will fans be satisfied with the series finale?
We think the finale will be extremely satisfying for the fans. A lot of questions are answered, but there are still a lot of surprises. There are also a few Easter eggs thrown in for people paying close attention.
Just for fun: what is one thing that viewers may not know about Ross, Laura, Raini and Calum?
Ross is an amazing learner. No matter what we asked him to do, he would learn it in a day — whether it was Irish step-dancing, spinning a basketball on his finger, or playing a specific song on the mandolin. We used to have cast/crew foosball tournaments, and Ross went from not really knowing the game to dominating in no time. Also, Ross is a pretty good artist. In fact, he designed his brother Rocky’s tattoo.
Laura doesn’t like pickles — but she is such a trooper, that she would eat them whenever we asked her to. Also, she has a cell phone that is so old. It’s a flip-phone and it’s got to be from the ’90s.
Raini loved her Trish wardrobe so much that she kept almost of all of it. Also, Raini’s dad makes the best BBQ ribs ever and would bring them by whenever he was in town.
Calum’s dressing room was the unofficial hangout for us and the cast. In fact, Pixie, the show mascot dog, lived in his room on work days. Also, Calum is in his 20s but part of the reason he still looks so young is that he can’t grow facial hair — we’re pretty sure he’s never had to shave. Another great one about Calum: One year he went trick-or-treating with us dressed as Dez!