Season 5 of Last Man Standing premieres Friday, and we caught up with star Tim Allen in August for our Fall TV Preview mega-issue to discuss what’s coming up next for the Baxter family. In sum, Mike (Allen) is just returning from another trip for Outdoor Man, Vanessa (Nancy Travis) has left her geologist job to become a teacher, Kristen (Amanda Fuller) got married, Mandy (Molly Ephraim) is back from her fashion internship in New York, and Eve (Kaitlyn Dever) is dealing with the college admission process.
In a wide-ranging phone call, Allen talked to us about the show … and then some. Ahead, the comedian waxes poetic on politics, feminism, and gun safety.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where do we pick up with the Baxter family when Last Man Standing returns? Do we follow Mandy to New York?
TIM ALLEN: Television being as it is, there’s only so much we can do. We shoot on a live stage, so it’s a very, very difficult format, but really wonderful to see in person. There’s nothing like it. Home Improvement taught me that it’s almost like a theatre play. We don’t get to breathe too much … you’ve got to consider how these writers are able to get a beginning, middle, and end, the story arc, and a B story arc, all in 23 minutes. I’ve seen people go nuts, some film directors that got involved in this business and just said, “I don’t even know how you do this.” It’s an acquired skill set.
I know Bob Seeger pretty well, and one day I just said, “How do you do that? How do you write a melody and say, ‘Oh wait a minute … then I’ll go like this … and then add lyrics …’” and it’s a song. Taylor Swift writing all those songs: how do you do that? But for them, that’s their skill set.
So, to backtrack, Mandy will come back to New York, and Kristen will have already gotten married.
Do you think people are going to be sad not to see Kristen’s wedding?
Probably, but like I said, the reality is that we can only do so much [on a soundstage]. It’s just so much effort to go to a wedding, to get a church, and then what do you really see?
Right, especially if it’s going to be a happy wedding.
You know, Kristen started off as an unwed mother whose parents didn’t give up on her. Wonderful families go through terrible things, and terrible families go through wonderful things. That’s the way of the world. So she’s going to be dealing with what sometimes is more difficult than failure, since all of us deal with failure on a daily basis — or at least I have. She’s going to start dealing with success.
What’s going to happen with Eve?
She’s another character who I adore: She’s used to success, and she’s going to deal with failure for the first time. This is going to be remarkable, if we can go deep — what it’s like to fail when you’ve had so much success. Everything floated for her, everything went her way, and then to just miss the cut [to attend West Point]. Who does she turn into? What does Eve want? Is she being that conservative, gun-toting zealot because she’s attached to the character Mike Baxter, or is that who she really is?
That will be interesting!
Then Mandy’s got more street smarts than anybody believes. I want all these daughters to find out who they are, just like I do with my own, but it’s very difficult to get authentic, because girls don’t mimic their fathers like boys do. [Whispers] But they do, kind of.
Eve is a special case, because it’s so obvious how she takes after Mike.
Yeah. I’ve really beseeched the writers to find out, could this actually happen? Like Eve going to West Point. Is that possible? And how do you go to West Point? How would you miss going to West Point? If she were to miss it, do you get on a waiting list? Do you get another chance? The details are really important, I think. I’m a comedian, so I get to play liberal, conservative, whichever one’s funniest and more pointed, but I’m after the truth.
Yesterday I misspoke and I said, “We’re really going to drill Hillary this year.” And someone said, “Drill?” and I said, “When they interrogate someone.” “You mean grill.” And I said, “Drill … oh, I guess that’s a bit of a weird connotation.” But when I say “grill Hillary,” I’m after the truth. I’m constantly surprised at both sides. Donald Trump doesn’t need to say he had 10,000 people at a rally. He didn’t! One of the broadcasters I know said it was a full house, but it was 4,800 people. And that’s a big crowd for that room! Why does he have to say 10,000?
If you would just answer a few of these questions for the truth-seekers out there, I’m all for open, fair election. We asked women on our staff, “Would you vote for Hillary just because she’s a woman?” And we were shocked that more than 80 percent said yes. They just want a woman in there. And our question was, “Well, what if it was Sarah Palin?” You got this groan from a liberal group of writers, but the women said, “Oh, god … but we just said yes! If she was the only woman: Yes.” So it doesn’t matter if she’s going to disappoint you down the road: You want a woman in there.
Look, any one of us, especially those that have daughters: I’d love to see a woman president. I think Condoleeza Rice is a good choice. [The show] gets a lot of pushback for being too political.
It’s funny though, because there aren’t that many shows that lean Republican.
Oh no. We are so out there.
You might be the only one.
I think we are the only one. They try to make Mike Baxter a caricature, which helps the liberal side be okay with it. I fight that, because I say his opinions are just as valid. I adore my liberal friends. I have nothing but honor and respect for their opinion. I don’t see eye to eye with them, that’s the only difference.
I usually watch your show when I’m home in Ohio, which is very conservative.
That’s where the show does well. In one episode, I did not want the women from Outdoor Man playing softball on their league. It just makes it more complicated. But then it makes you say things and do things that sound not feminist. However, if I go home and someone tells me Eve or one of my girls can’t do something because they’re a woman, I go, “Bulls—. My girls can do whatever the hell they want to do.” So he’s constantly conflicted about it, and that’s what I like.
I have a household and a business that are all female. In my production office, just from the way it turned out, it’s all women! I have a woman boss! I live it, my sisters, my mother. I’m very feminist-oriented, and always have been. But I’m a guy’s guy, because I love men that hit stuff, and at least know about guns. I’m not a gun guy, I don’t shoot animals or people. When we were kids, my dad put us through a YMCA class. We know how to load ’em, clean ’em, put ’em away, store ’em, and never point them at people. That’s just the rule: You don’t get mad and go get a gun. We just learned about them. And then put them away, and none of us ever used them again. The truth of it is, AK47s look dangerous, so they want those outlawed, but a Winchester 3030 is actually, in my mind, far more dangerous.
Anyway, we got asked this yesterday, “How do you guys feel about gun violence?” This guy, Mike Baxter, is a guy who works in a store that sells guns, so he has to have an attitude about them. But it’s really mental illness: Most of these big, horrendous events were done by somebody who’s mentally ill.
Well the other side of that is the big game question, like with Cecil the Lion.
I’ve never hunted. Generally, these hunters, generally, are really into the environment. They want the environment to stay like it is so they can keep killing animals. I don’t get it. I literally don’t get it. I’m a comedian.
I don’t want to besmirch hunting, but I just never got it. I love target shooting, skeet shooting, but I wouldn’t shoot anybody else with them, and I wouldn’t shoot an animal.
Back to the show, will you have any guest stars? Showrunner Matt Berry told us Jonathan Taylor-Thomas will direct.
I love him on the show, he’s just reluctant. He’s kind of cute in the way that he’s so shy. It’s like he’s never done this before. Jay Leno we’re pitching to do a show about cars. [Note: It’s happening!]
And I’m going to shout out [social critic] Camille Paglia. I took a course that she was the subject of in college, and it changed my whole attitude about women’s power and how it affects men. She’s politely hard on men. I like it. She gives us the respect that we’re due, but you’ve gotta understand what men are about, and she’s very good. I’d like to get her own, but it’s hard to integrate without looking like you’re stunt-casting.
Last Man Standing premieres Friday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
Want more? EW’s Fall TV Preview mega-issue has the scoop on 115 shows! While the issue has left newsstands, you can still buy it here.