The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers boss reveals why Joshua Jackson isn't in reunion episode
Warning: This article contains spoilers about episode 6 of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, now streaming on Disney+.
After 25 years, Coach Bombay (Emilio Estevez) finally reunited with his original Mighty Ducks hockey team in this week's episode of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers. And while the six returning Mighty Ducks film stars brought a heaping dose of nostalgia to the Disney+ revival series, it turns out that executive producer/original film franchise writer Steven Brill had even bigger plans for the reunion—but the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything.
Episode 6, "The Spirit of the Ducks," brought former Ducks players Fulton Reed (Elden Henson), Averman (Matt Doherty), Adam Banks (Vinny La Russo), Connie (Marguerite Moreau), Guy (Garret Henson), and Kenny Wu (Justin Wong) back into Bombay's world, but a miscommunication about where Bombay has been all these years led to an offhand comment from Averman that revealed former Ducks captain Charlie Conway (Joshua Jackson) isn't in a good place with their former coach right now. And while Jackson didn't appear in the episode, there is a bigger story there that Brill couldn't bring to life because of production logistics.
"I always knew I wanted to bring back the original Ducks and tie them into this series," Brill tells EW. "Quite honestly, I think I would have woven more of them in had it not been for COVID. It was literally almost impossible to get the actors up to Canada because they had to quarantine and stay up there for a month to be a part of the show. When COVID hit, it became apparent that people that would come up would probably only be able to stay for one episode, which was already a month-long commitment—two weeks to quarantine and two weeks to shoot."
Brill laughs as he reveals his original plans were to have all the former Ducks players pop in and out throughout the entire first season. "I would have loved to work them in as people working and living around Minneapolis," he says. "You see Fulton working construction, I would have loved him to be around more, I wanted Portman [Aaron Lohr] and other people to be part of the community and be able to use them throughout the series, like Averman as a teacher at the high school. Kenan [Thompson] obviously was on Saturday Night Live all year and couldn't come up for a month. And we couldn't reunite the Bash Brothers because Aaron Lohr actually works as a therapist and he couldn't leave his patients and clients for a month to come up."
If Disney+ renews The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers for a second season, Brill hopes to bring those plans to life in future episodes. "We had to compress it all into one reunion episode this time around," he says. "We need season 2 because we gotta talk about Charlie! And Charlie's mom Casey [Heidi Kling]! And what happened to the Bash Brothers and Julie 'The Cat' Gaffney [Colombe Jacobsen-Derstine]. We have stories and things we want to explore, and I'm excited to leave all the avenues open. It was a real puzzle and COVID added a whole other layer, but the extent that it happened is amazing to me. It was not easy so I'm glad it was able to happen at all."
Speaking specifically about Jackson's Charlie, who was the main character of all three Mighty Ducks films, Brill explains that the COVID-19 pandemic also prevented him from appearing in this episode. "With Josh we always talked about when we're going to bring him back, we're going to bring him back in a big substantial real way. COVID made it hard," he says. "He actually just had a baby right in the middle of this and the idea of him coming up wasn't practical or possible. And then the idea that we can then explore that storyline down the line was something we wanted to preserve."
Brill is committed to finding a way to bring him back in the future. "I'm not being coy, that's my intention. I hope that could happen," he says. "Josh Jackson's Charlie Conway was a huge part of this and people want to know and Josh obviously has been an incredibly successful actor and personality over the last 30 years. I think it'd be great to bring him in intimately into the second season.
As for the slow-burn romance between Bombay and Lauren Graham's Alex that began to develop in this episode, Brill promises that fans can "absolutely" expect to see that explored more in the back half of this season. "There is something going on with those two. And we've got to follow through," he says. "I'm excited for people to see what happens with those two. They've got this natural give and take and that makes for great romantic comedy tension. And the fact that they are co-coaches and are ostensibly co-parents to these kids in a way, they're like the mom and dad, there's that dynamic too that's interesting to explore."
In the original Mighty Ducks movies, it always felt like Charlie's mom Casey and Bombay had that same kind of spark but nothing ever came about. And Brill reveals that plans to explore that romance in D2: The Mighty Ducks were scrapped for logistical reasons. "Ducks 1 ends with a real sort of feeling that you think they're going to get together and kiss or embrace. And then Ducks 2 a year and a half later, we didn't follow through with it, and Gordon had taken a different path," Brill says with a laugh. "The reasons for that are similar to what we talked about earlier, it couldn't happen for dumb practical reasons I think with that actor. And then Ducks 3 we brought her back but it was sort of post-romance and Gordon Bombay wasn't in Ducks 3 that much."
But just because a Bombay-Casey Conway romance didn't happen onscreen 30 years ago doesn't mean it didn't happen offscreen. "In my mind, a lot happened with Heidi's character Casey and Gordon after Ducks 3 from 1996 to 2015 or so," Brill reveals. "I think they've had a storyline which I'd love to explore. I'd love to let people know that they dated. And obviously through [Charlie] and maybe there's other characters that spawned out of that relationship—we'll see."
A baby Duck?! Brill laughs again as he adds, "To use the word 'spawn' is a bit of a tease but we're thinking about all sorts of things."
New episodes of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers debut Fridays on Disney+.