IAR Set Visit: 'Last Man Standing'

Tuesday, 10 April 2012 08:39 Written by  Dana Feldman
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IAR Set Visit: 'Last Man Standing'

It’s as if Tim Allen has the Midas touch when it comes to picking TV shows of which to star in. ABC’s Last Man Standing, only in its first season, has already solidified Allen as a twice-successful leading man in the world of the network sitcom. In regards to his hugely successful run with Home Improvement, he says of this second go-round, “It doesn’t take a genius to see the similarities here. Instead of Tool Time, I have a VLOG, and on this show I have three girls instead of boys.”

Yes, the formula is familiar, but hey, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? In Last Man Standing, Allen’s Mike Baxter is a traditional man’s man, a lover of all things adventurous and outdoors. A pick-up truck-driving sportsman, Mike is constantly fighting to salvage his idea of a man’s world. He works at an iconic outdoor sporting goods store where he is the king of the hill, and then he returns to his female-dominated home front where he is the odd man out save for his toddler grandson, Boyd.

Among his wife, Vanessa (Nancy Travis), who has recently returned to the work world where she was quickly promoted, and his three daughter’s, he is caught juggling his mission to get men back to their rightful place in society in conjunction with his roles as husband, father and grandfather.

The main outlet for his woes proves to be the VLOG he speaks of. His longtime friend and boss, Ed (Hector Elizondo), puts him in charge of the company’s webpage and Mike soon discovers the cathartic platform which gives him a voice in which to appeal to those who also agree that manliness as a whole is under assault in this new woman’s world that he finds himself trapped in.

Currently filming the episode entitled "This Bud's For You", they bring on Robert Forster (The Descendants) to play Mike’s dad, Bud. There is a certain magic to the set as it is the old Seinfeld soundstage. The laughter is palpable as we watch some takes with Forster before they break and answer a few questions.

Starting off with the ladies of the show, Travis is joined by Alexandra Krosney, who portrays the eldest daughter, twenty year-old Kristin; Molly Ephraim, who portrays seventeen year-old Mandy; and Kaitlyn Dever, who portrays the tomboy of the family, thirteen year-old Eve.

When asked what might be coming up for their characters in upcoming episodes, they all laugh in unison as Travis explains, “We never know what’s going to happen until the night before when the script for the next day is in our email.” She adds laughing and shaking her head, “And we never know what’s going to come out of Tim’s mouth!” What she does say is that they make a real effort to make it as real as possible. “We need to be able to tell a story in twenty minutes that is real, relatable and believable.” Adding, “We ask ourselves ‘What is the story?’ We don’t just want to go from one joke to another.” She watches Allen and Elizondo’s past work in an attempt to learn from them. “They’ve both got certain expertise and timing that is interesting for me to watch.”

Krosney adds that she, too, watches their timing as well as how they deliver their lines and says that this is a wonderful way for her to learn. Of portraying a young, single mother, she candidly explains, “I have a very limited knowledge of babies. I don’t know anything about them!” She laughs adding, “I really don’t know what to do around babies.” Admittedly, the ones she works with are adorable and so her learning curve has been a good one.

About to purchase her first car, Ephraim smiles wide as she calls Allen her Dad away from home. “Tim is the car guy and he said to me ‘You’re going to go through me, right?’”

Per Dever of life on what is appearing to be quite the fun set to work on, “Tim helps me a lot with my comedic timing. He has taught me how to deliver a line, how to say it, and he has helped me with my timing.” Saying that this is her first sitcom, she has the best teacher. An admitted fashion queen in real life, “I am so different my tomboy character. But, thankfully, she’s becoming girlier.”

Now the guys come out. Allen and Elizondo are joined by Christoph Sanders, one of Mike’s employees at the store, Kyle. Of getting the role, “I really lucked out. Originally, this was just going to be a reoccurring role. I went on one or two callbacks and then got it and we were shooting the next week.” Saying that he couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with, he adds, “This is a new outlet for me in regards to performance. The whole process is a great learning experience.” An admitted boy scout, Sanders grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. “I grew up doing all of the things we do on the show, things I still enjoy doing.” He also says that both Allen and Elizondo have really helped him with the timing and delivery of his lines. “This is new for me. You really have to keep sharp. This type of timing is so different for me.”

In regards to the addition of Forster to the cast, Allen divulges that Forster is a true actor. “He’d never done a sitcom before and wanted to know what it  was like.” Once he tried it out, Allen says laughing, “I think he was startled, surprised and fatigued. I don’t think he realized just how much the script changes all the way up to filming.”

And in regards to Mike Baxter, Allen says, “I’d like this life, this house, this job!” Asked what it’s like to work on the old Seinfeld stage, he says “Who?” to a big laugh. If these walls could talk, the stories they would tell. But, he says, “The set has taken on our character now.” Loving the life of being on a lot, he adds, “Being on a lot never gets old.” The show, he feels, is about being a parent. “ What’s the secret to good parenting? Nobody knows and I always feel that I am coming up a bit short.” A lover of all things manly, Allen loves camping, riding ATV’s, boating and being in the mountains. He has built over sixteen hundred hotrods and is an avid car lover. “As I get older I really appreciate cup holders and my GPS. Man am I getting old!”

Elizondo jumps in laughing, “I also love the wilderness. I used to go backpacking, well when I had a back!” Old fashioned in several ways, he still uses a flip phone with a cracked screen and writes notes on a yellow memo pad. Of the largely female cast, he adds, “I am comfortable working with ladies. I guess I am old-fashioned that way. And besides,” he chuckles, “they’re a better class of people for the most part.”

Allen, “I love women. I prefer girls as a parent, they disappoint at a different age,” he jokes. “You cannot leave us men alone for any length of time – we’ll burn something or blow something up.” Women, he says jokingly, are emotional terrorists. He relates to his character and says that construction is his first passion. “I admire working people period. If we were fans of working people instead of athletes and celebrities, it’d be a different world.” Telling that he used to work at a store where they sold ammo, “I shot one animal in my life and I didn’t like it. If I ever had to skin an animal to eat it, I’d eat vegetables.” Though he does defend hunters saying, “The people that hunt usually vehemently protect the environment and want to keep it as is. They eat what they kill and don’t just kill for sport.”

When questioned about his idols he says Newhart. “I like the classic TV sitcoms with the live audience.” They film in front of a live audience, which he enjoys. “I do live stand-up, keeps me razor sharp. It’s wonderful and stressful. He says that he does not know how to describe acting. When asked about upcoming projects with Pixar/Disney, he says, “They’re like working with the CIA and they prefer that I don’t talk about Toy Story or any projects. Though I will say that the shorts are doing very well.”

Last Man Standing airs on ABC Tuesdays from 8:00PM to 8:30PM EST. This week’s brand new episode entitled "Wherefore Art Thou, Mike Baxter?" airs on Tuesday, April 10th. This half-hour comedy is from Twentieth Century Fox Television. The series was created by Jack Burditt and executive-produced by Kevin Abbott, Tim Allen, Marty Adelstein, Shawn Levy, Becky Clements, Richard Baker, Rick Messina, Andy Gordon, Marsh McCall, and Kevin Hench.

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