Interviews

Interview: Andi Mack‘s Lilan Bowden Talks Dream Role, Importance of Diversity and Ships

Lilan Bowden
ANDI MACK - Disney Channel's "Andi Mack" stars Lilan Bowden as Bex Mack. (Disney Channel/Craig Sjodin)

In a sea of wild soap operas, dark reboots and gritty superhero dramas came Disney Channel’s Andi Mack. One would imagine a Disney Channel show to solely be things of fluffy and sunshine, but instead this half-hour dramedy from Terry Minsky (Lizzie McGuire) deals with tough issues in a smart and relatable way. TV Source Magazine spoke with star Lilan Bowden, the actress behind Bex Mack, about her career, the direction of Andi Mack and diversity in television.

[Related: Five Reasons Why You Should Watch Disney Channel’s Andi Mack]

Andi Mack is a contemporary coming-of-age story about a relatable girl who’s trying to determine where she fits in and the many amazing ways she can live her life. On the eve of her 13th birthday, Andi learns that her older sister, Bex, is actually her mother. This revelation puts Andi on an unfamiliar path of self-discovery which she navigates with the help of her loving albeit complicated family; her two best friends, Cyrus and Buffy; and her middle school crush, Jonah Beck. Along the way, Andi learns that sometimes the unexpected is what makes life great.

We had such a great time chatting with Lilan Bowden, and we can’t wait to chat with her again! We hope you’ll enjoy.

TV Source Magazine: Comedy is a huge part of your career! I remember you from Funny or Die skits and Filthy Preppy Teen$. Some of our TV Source soap fans followed them thanks to a cameo appearance by then-Days of our Lives actor, Spencer Neville. That was all so fun!
Lilan Bowden: Oh my gosh! That’s so funny. Yeah, I had such a good time doing that because there were a lot of people I knew on that project. It was like working with friends.

It was the perfect satire of the teen shows on at the time. I loved it.
It was such a blast and I felt like the writing was so good!

I think it was too! Would you say your comedic skills influenced the character of Bex on Andi Mack, or was this how the character was originally penned? She can kind of be the comedic relief on the show!
I think Bex was always a little sarcastic and dry. We all bring ourselves to our characters which I do for Bex. So, I think my interpretation, my version of Bex also becomes a little goofier and more self-deprecating. She always tries to find the humor in situations — especially when she’s uncomfortable!

Oh, definitely! I think that’s what makes Bex so relatable, especially for the adults who watch the show. Our generation’s humor is universal and not to mention, she’s going through some unique situations we can all relate to.
Oh yeah!

But in the end, how is it balancing your other comedy work with your comedy duo Lilan and Wilder while also doing Andi Mack?
Well, Andi Mack is a full-time job and we shoot in Salt Lake City, Utah. So Wilder and I try to find venues and outlets wherever we can. In Utah, we found a troupe that does longform improv and last season we guest played with them a couple times. There’s a local high school that we’ve done a couple sketch shows at too! We’re just trying to venues wherever we come across them!

I love that.
Yeah, then when we’re back in Los Angeles we always try to get a couple of shows in. We just did a little series of mini-sketches that will be on Instagram in the next few months to come.

I’m ready for it! That’s so awesome how you can balance it all. How often does Andi Mack shoot?
It’s been different every season! Season 1 was just four months, Season 2 was eight months and I know I’ll be in Salt Lake until the end of the year. But it’s undetermined about Season 3, I just know I’ll be here for a while! I’ve got my own little apartment here and one of my cats in my lap.

Cute, cute! One of the big moments recently was when Cici bought The Fringe shop for Bex. A lot of fans were excited to see their relationship mature from always being at odds to tolerating each other. Now they’re in a good place.
Yeah, they’re like business partners!

Who would have thought that? Do you think it’s important for them to fully mend their relationship or do you like their frenemy vibe?
Just like in real life, I think it’s important to keep evaluating your relationship with people! And to not be defined by the past. Like in real life, if you’ve had a grudge for a while, it’s important to assess your life to figure out if it’s really necessary. I completely support that trajectory for Cici and Bex! If it doesn’t make sense for them to keep fighting, then we shouldn’t be afraid of their relationship progressing.

I love the thought behind that. Makes a lot of sense.
Life is always trying to give you challenges! They’re never going away. So, I’m not afraid of relationships mending!

I’ve got to take more of that advice. Taurus signs have got to learn to let it go! [Laughs] [Laughs] We all do, man! There are some lessons in life that you don’t just learn, you learn every year. Some years you learn more than others and some you take a break from learning!

A big question from fans that continues to come around is what is up with this mystery man in Bex’s secret box? I don’t know if you can say anything about this, but are we ever going to learn more about who this guy might be?
Oh man… I don’t know. I think that with every story there’s storylines that are more exciting to explore and others that are less. I just think this one remains to be seen! Maybe we just have to let it go, maybe it’ll come back? I’ve said this before, but the writers don’t show the actors the scripts until a week before we shoot.

I know! I’ve heard that in all your interviews!
So, I’m just as in the dark as the fans, in a lot of ways. I’m always like, “Man, I don’t know! I can’t wait to find out!”

Everything is so tightly under wraps. which kind of leads into my next questions. Is there anything you can tell us to expect for Season 3?
Hm, okay. I always want to give people a little bit of something exciting without giving anything totally away, right?

Right!
What I think the show’s done a really good job of is creating more three-dimensional characters. I think that Season 3 follows true to that statement. The characters that are more on the fringe we’ll get to see more sides of and the relationships already established are going to progress further. And you’ll get some surprise characters too!

Ooh, okay! See, that’s what I love about this show. In the article I wrote, I mentioned how Season 1 of Andi Mack was very much about Andi Mack. That all changed in Season 2! Hearing that, I’m even more excited for Season 3.
Yay! I can’t wait for people to see it either.

Photo Credit: (Disney Channel)

As an actress of color, how does it feel to be on a show that’s so racially, culturally, religiously and even sexually diverse? When do you most feel that impact?
I think that this is my dream role. It’s so exciting! Especially after auditioning for so many different types of shows. I don’t think I’ve ever auditioned for a part meant to be biracial, or that fit me so much like a glove, where my ethnicity wasn’t a problem or ignored.

And I’m sorry, you are biracial in real life, correct?
Yeah! My mom is Taiwanese, and my dad is a mix of European. So white American. It’s so great to play exactly what I am! It’s so personally important to me but it’s also so valuable for kids to be able to see people who look like them – have their characteristics, have their life circumstances reflected on TV. That way they don’t feel alone or different, like an outsider. I think Andi Mack does such a great job with that in every way. Where they make kids dealing with mental problems or exploring their sexuality as well as their parents going through different things. Oh my gosh, I just feel like there’s something for everyone on this show.

That’s what really hooked me on this show! What you said is exactly how I got the TV Source staff hooked on the show. They were skeptical because it was from Disney, but I told them this show might just strike a major chord, and it did! That’s what makes this show so special – there’s so much to hang onto no matter your age, or background because of the diverse characters. This is definitely a show that’s going to be a big deal for this generation! Every generation has always had their defining shows whether it be a drama or a sitcom dealing with topical issues, and I think Andi Mack can be that for this generation of kids.
That means so much to hear you say that. Wow, thank you. That’s how I feel too, but it’s different since I’m on the inside. I feel like I can’t trust my judgment as much as someone who has an outside perspective. To hear you say that fills my heart.

Aw! I’m being 1000% honest – it’s such a great show. I’m so happy for all its success and to be here speaking with you!
Oh my God. Aw!

One last question. Promise this is not an emotional one but a fun one, like a speed round!
Okay, okay. I’m ready!

I’m sure you know, but ships are a big part of the Andi Mack fandom. So, this is all from Lilan’s POV, not Bex’s so no biases! First off, are you Team Jandi (Jonah/Andi) or Team Wandi (Walker/Andi)?
Oh my goodness! I think I’m Team Jandi?

After Jonah’s song to Andi, I think I’m there with you too.
It’s so hard but I have to include a question mark because it’s like… what’s gonna happen?

Well, alright! Are you Team Muffy (Marty/Buffy) or Team Tuffy (TJ/Buffy)?
Oh, goodness! I’m Team Tuffy, but only as basketball partners.

Photo Credit: Disney Channel

Team Jyrus (Jonah/Cyrus) or Team Tyrus (TJ/Cyrus)?
This is so fun! Um, I’m gonna go – ugh, this is so hard!

You can leave it open ended, give us a question mark again! It’s okay!
I’m gonna go hashtag Tyrus with a question mark? The scene on the swings was so cute! But Jyrus is the original and since day one, Andi Mack fans have been all hashtag Jyrus. So it’s really hard!

So last but certainly not least… Are you Team Bex and Bowie? No other options.
All! The! Way! Bexie, or Boex, or Box. Doesn’t quite roll of the tongue.

Those two are great together! Thank you for playing, and thank you so much for chatting today!
No, thank you! It means so much to be interviewed by someone invested in the show and to answer questions detailing the show. This has been so fun!

Mondays are Andi Mack nights for the TV Source team now, so thank you again!
I’m so excited for you guys to see the episodes coming up and the ones we’re shooting now! Ugh! I cannot wait!

Cheers to Season 3 and to many, many, many more to come!

Andi Mack airs Mondays on the Disney Channel.

About the author

Coryon Gray

Coryon Gray joined TVSource Magazine as a staff writer in October 2014. Prior to TVSource Magazine, he's written for and moderated Asian entertainment blogs and forums. On top of writing duties, Coryon is also a panelist for the TVSource Podcast and Soap Countdown Podcast.