×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

How ‘Andi Mack’ Will Sign Off After Breaking New Ground for Disney Channel

Over three seasons, Disney Channel’s “Andi Mack” has tackled everything from learning disabilities to coming out. Centered on a multi-generational Asian American family, the show follows the titular Andi Mack (played by Peyton Elizabeth Lee) as she wades through middle school life after learning a bombshell of her own: that the woman she thought was her older sister, Bex (Lilan Bowden), is actually her biological mother and Andi’s birth, a result of an unplanned pregnancy. But now the series that won both a GLAAD Award and a Television Academy Honor for “television with a conscience” in 2018, is signing off.

The show ends its run with Andi grappling with the possibility of leaving her friends for art school.

“I didn’t want to end with a cliffhanger. I believe people will miss Andi and her friends and her family,” creator and co-executive producer Terri Minsky tells Variety. “To me, the finale is a way for them to tell our audience, ‘We’ll miss you, too, but you don’t have to worry about us: We’ll be fine.'”

“Andi Mack” is the first Disney Channel program to include a gay main character, Cyrus, (played by Joshua Rush) who revealed his sexuality in two simple but powerful words: “I’m gay.”

“I honestly did not know we were going to be able to have Cyrus say the words,” says Minsky. “And I didn’t specifically ask for permission for that.”

It was the first time those words had been spoken on the network. Minsky hopes the storyline set a new precedent for future showrunners and writers on how to craft narratives around LGBTQ characters, especially younger ones.

“This generation that’s watched it — I want them to come into this business and know this doesn’t even have to be a consideration. They don’t have to consider how are they going to tell [that particular] story,” Minsky says.

Adds Nancy Kanter, executive vice president of content and creation strategy for Disney Channels Worldwide: “We’ve sort of crossed the rubric right now, having had a character who talks about his sexuality. I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t do that again in other ways. That we could tackle topics that we might not have thought about putting on air 10 years ago, or five or six years ago, was really both challenging for us, but terrifically exciting, as well.”

Other storylines revolved around similarly weighty material, including gun safety and young people who experience anxiety attacks. And episodes revolving around Chinese traditions — like Chinese New Year and the Harvest Moon Festival — added cultural specificity to the show, drawing on Lee’s own Chinese heritage. 

“I think people don’t understand the importance of seeing yourself represented on TV,” says Lee. “Even I don’t think I understood the importance of representation until we started making our show, and I started seeing how kids were responding to it.”

The character of Andi was originally conceived as Jewish American, but Lee’s audition convinced showrunners to re-think her background and cast around Lee’s own mixed heritage: Bowden is of mixed Taiwanese American descent. Other members of the supporting cast include Lauren Tom and Stoney Westmoreland as Andi’s grandparents. Westmoreland was later fired from the show following his arrest for allegedly trying to arrange a sexual encounter with a minor. 

“Andi Mack” fans have been nothing if not devoted: One reportedly assembled 1,000 paper cranes, each with a message for the show’s cast and crew, that was delivered to the Disney offices in Burbank, Calif. Rush shares that he routinely reads messages from young LGBTQ viewers who say the show has helped them find solace for their own coming out journeys.

“I’ll read, ‘I’ve been in the closet. My parents are homophobic, and my sisters are, too. But one of them loves “Andi Mack”,’” he says.

The “Andi Mack” series finale airs Friday, July 26 on Disney Channel. 

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Charlie Rose Sexual Harassment

    Charlie Rose Sued for Sexual Harassment by Longtime Makeup Artist

    A makeup artist who worked for Charlie Rose for 22 years has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit, accusing the former CBS and PBS host of years of unlawful behavior toward female employees. Gina Riggi alleges that Rose was verbally abusive with her and would often make derogatory comments about her weight. She also alleges that [...]

  • Actress Catherine Oxenberg, left, with Stanley

    Catherine Oxenberg on Dramatizing Her Life Story for 'Escaping the NXIVM Cult'

    For seven years, Catherine Oxenberg says, individuals within the NXIVM organization groomed her daughter India and made her believe in their group as one of empowerment, despite many of their practices being abusive towards women. Now, those years have been condensed into a 90-minute dramatization of Oxenberg’s story for Lifetime, entitled “Escaping the NXIVM Cult: [...]

  • Suzanne Whang Obit

    'House Hunters' Star Suzanne Whang Dies at 56

    Suzanne Whang, best known for her nine-year hosting and narrating stint on HGTV’s “House Hunters,” died Tuesday after a 13-year battle with breast cancer. She was 56. Whang’s partner Jeff Vezain shared the news on Facebook Thursday, writing that “she confronted cancer with courage, humor, determination and optimism.” “She was immensely encouraged by the love [...]

  • Ronen Rubinstein, Sierra McClain Join ‘9-1-1:

    Ronen Rubinstein, Sierra McClain Join ‘9-1-1’ Spinoff at Fox

    Fox’s “9-1-1” spinoff has added two more series regulars to its cast. Ronen Rubinstein and Sierra McClain have joined previously announced cast members Rob Lowe, Liv Tyler and Jim Parrack, Variety has learned. The new entry to the budding “9-1-1” franchise follows a sophisticated New York fireman (Lowe) who, along with his son, re-locates to Austin, [...]

  • Mr Robot BTS

    How 'Mr. Robot' Launched Its Creator and Star to New Heights

    “Mr. Robot” may be synonymous with helping USA redefine its long-touted “blue-skies” strategy into its current “we the bold” motto, but the series was also career-defining for those involved — particularly creator Sam Esmail and actor Rami Malek. Malek’s resume included a few key credits including HBO’s “The Pacific” and “Short Term 12” before taking [...]

  • AMERICAN IDOL - "119 (Grand Finale)"

    Ryan Seacrest to Return for 'American Idol' Season 3 on ABC

    Ryan Seacrest will return as the host of “American Idol” for the music competition’s third season on ABC. Seacrest will also continue hosting and executive producing “On Air with Ryan Seacrest,” his nationally syndicated L.A. morning drive-time radio show. He also serves as co-host and executive producer on ABC’s “Live with Kelly and Ryan,” as [...]

  • Julian Fellowes

    'Downton Abbey' Creator Julian Fellowes on His Early Start as an Actor

    Julian Fellowes was all wrong for his time — at first. When he graduated from drama school in 1973, working-class dramas onstage were all the rage, and the aspiring actor struggled to get an agent. He eventually snagged a supporting role in “A Touch of Spring,” a West End comedy that required him to fall down a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content