If you haven’t caught up with the Andi Mack series finale, turn back!
Well there you have it friends. With Andi’s (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) momentous high school decision, a joyous group singalong to “Born This Way,” and the long-awaited proof that both Buffy (Sophia Wylie) and Marty (Garren Stitt) and Cyrus (Joshua Rush) and TJ (Luke Mullen) like, like like each other, Andi Mack, Disney Channel’s boldest and most groundbreaking original series to date, is officially over.
Having gotten Andi Mack showrunner Terri Minsky on the phone for a long, deeply spoilerific conversation earlier this month, we’ll have a lot more to say about the finale’s wholesome perfection and the series’ parameter-shifting legacy in a moment, but first, let us just say this: Honestly, more series finales should just be one big party.
Get the drama out of the way early! Turn down the lights and turn up the jams! Give a grandma an inflatable T-Rex costume and an open dance floor! Sit a couple of boys down on a romantic fireside bench and let them finally hold hands! Seriously, showrunners—dancey, joyful series finale parties are where it’s at. Don’t sleep on Andi Mack’s excellent example.
If you’ve paid any attention at all to Paste’s previous coverage of Disney Channel’s groundbreaking family dramedy, you’ll know that this isn’t the first time we’ve suggested that more shows should be doing what Andi Mack was doing from Day One. More shows should be exploring the shape of non-traditional family setups. More shows should be letting teens tackle platonic friendships with thoughtful joy. More shows should be making intergenerational family dynamics a focal point of their storytelling. More shows should be letting the specificity of their characters’ full identities—from cultural background to race to sexual orientation to the ability to see crafting treasure where anyone else would see trash—inform their growth. More shows should let teen boys be tender, and more shows should gently call teen boys out when they’re being benignly oblivious to the inner lives of others.
More shows, in short, should just BE Andi Mack. And while its series finale, “We Were Here,” was a disappointment insofar as it officially marked the end of our time with the Good Hair Crew, it was a wild success in showcasing every other thing, big and small, that made Andi Mack so fantastic from the beginning. From the emotional (and actual) growth in Andi’s new-normal family set-up to the core four’s rock-solid friendship to the official blossoming of the puppy love romance between Cyrus and TJ, “We Were Here” found its sense of finality in the same kind of infinite possibility wrought by change upon which the series originally began. Nothing is final, the finale told its fans, except how we care for others.
But enough of our sentimentality. We promised a FULL SPOILER exit interview with series creator Terri Minsky, and we live to serve.
Note: The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Paste: Terri! First of all, congratulations on the series! How are you feeling, now that the finale is finally here?
Minsky: Thank you! You know, it’s actually gotten harder as we’ve gotten closer to the finale, because I think I was in some sort of state of—I won’t say denial, but [making] something from start to finish, that’s a first for me in terms of a television show. So originally I was feeling really, really good about it, like I did something. But now […] that I’ve done what I wanted to do, exactly what I wanted to do, and it’s turned out even better than I had imagined, it’s kind of weird to have done it!
Paste: Oh, we can only imagine. That’s not a feeling a lot of people get to have.
Minsky: And now that it’s really over, over, over, I [do] miss it more than I really have at any other point. I just look at the finale and I remember how those kids were so emotional, but how they were able to snap right back into the scene and whatever they were playing and not have that ending feeling about them. By the end they were all just such amazing, professional, incredibly talented people, I just look at them and I think, Oh, I wish I could be THEM when I grow up!
Paste: Same, honestly. To have that kind of emotional maturity at any age, let alone fourteen, fifteen?
Minsky: Incredible. I’m dying to see what they all become, all of them for different reasons.
Paste: What was the process of getting Andi Mack to this specific ending point? Did you have a three-season arc going into the project, or did you even know that three seasons would be where you’d be ending?
Minsky: I would love to say yes, but the truth is, I didn’t. It really was very much a process—the stories that came out of the room, a lot of them were obviously very personal to the writers themselves, and then the actors, what they brought, who they were. Everything was kind of like a plant that grew on its own, developed its own ecosystem.
In terms of when we learned that this would be the series finale, I don’t totally remember, but we were breaking Season Three and looking for our cliffhanger, this is like episode 10 out of 21, when we found out. So it was early enough that it was really great to be able to think, okay, we want to tell these stories, we want to get them in, we want to make sure that they lead to a place where it will conclude. I didn’t want to have people feeling cheated, especially if they’ve been watching the whole time. But it was hard, very, very hard, to know at Episode 10 and not be able to tell anyone. We definitely cried a little in the writers room, but [in terms of organic storytelling], it also made sense.
Paste: When it came to actually writing the finale, how did you approach that? What was the feeling like on set as everything was wrapping up?
Minsky: So, this is the first finale that I’ve written. It was the last episode, I was obviously going to write it, but we were still editing and writing and punching up and shooting all the ones leading up to it, and so it was almost the easiest script I ever wrote, because it was, like… we knew what was going to happen, it was just a matter of at what point, and what were the words going to be. Then I was done, and the writing room was so great about it and very supportive, and then we turned it in, and then there was the table read, and then we were shooting, and I was like WAIT A MINUTE! Wait a minute, this is the FINALE!
Paste: What was the process behind making “Born This Way” the party’s climactic moment?
Minsky: I have to give total credit to Paul Hoen, the director for [the episode], because we knew that we wanted to have the 2.0 party from the first season, we wanted to do a callback to that. So we had the story, but in terms of performing a song, that was all Paul. He’s done so many movies, and so many set pieces, I think he just had it in his head. So he made a list of songs and showed it to me, and the next day he said, we’ve got “Born This Way.” And I was blown away. I still am. I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know how he did it, but we have it, and it was so great, so great.
Paste: Well, and it’s such a recognizable dance party anthem, and so recognizably an LGBTQ pride anthem, that it feels like the perfect finale button to the episode. Like, saying that Cyrus’ coming out arc wasn’t just thrown in to be thrown in, but was developed very intentionally.
Minsky: Oh, it makes me so happy to hear that.
Paste: So we know the show has a very passionate fanbase in general, but when it comes to the Cyrus+TJ storyline, that passion is even more intense.
Minsky: Well, I think a lot of it is the fans reacting to seeing things on a Disney Channel show that they hadn’t seen before. On the one hand, I feel sad that this is the first time, I feel honored that we were the first time, but I also would like nothing more than to not ever again have something like this be such a big to-do. I just want characters to get to be who they are, to not have to explain, apologize, come out. But the fact is, now there’s this audience that’s paying attention, and you want to do right by them. I felt like they were there for us, and I wanted to give them something to thank them for being patient, for sticking around, for hoping, for paying such close attention. I’m just really hoping the finale is… I know it can’t be everything, but I hope it’s going to be something.
Paste: Can you talk a little bit about the process of deciding what that end moment for TJ and Cyrus would be? As both fans of the show and professional critics of serial storytelling, we found the quietness of their big moment to be exactly right, but we know that there will be fans who will still wish there had been more, or who will hold up the kiss between Buffy and Marty as a comparison, wondering why Cyrus and TJ couldn’t have the same thing.
Minsky: I feel like… they’re still in middle school, you know. And I know that people do things in middle school, but I guess I feel like it’s so. much. for, you know, the captain of the basketball team, to hold hands with a boy in the middle of a party. Like, the look on his face? I feel like a kiss, in a way, would have not been realistic to these characters. A lot of that story, a lot of that journey between Cyrus and TJ was subtext, and I think that whatever they were saying to each other, they weren’t actually saying in words. And even that final conversation isn’t explicit. I love that they have that moment reaching for each other and holding hands, in my mind, in the world that we live in, in the story of this relationship, that is a lot.
Paste: Oh, we remember being fourteen! Holding hands felt way more intimate and scary than some kind of awkward first kiss.
Minsky: I think that first physical contact with somebody is so intense. The feeling of their hand and your hand intertwined, how unusual and connected and intense that is. I just felt like this was the story of these characters, that they finally understood what they were saying to each other, and it wasn’t like they had to wonder, is he saying this? or is he thinking this?
In terms of the story, it didn’t need a kiss. Adding a kiss would have been doing it just to do it, to be first, and I didn’t want that. I would love if we were going to go on and have another season or another story, I would love to have the first LGBTQ kiss on Disney.
Paste: Well, at this point, if an Andi Mack movie ever did happen, it seems like the ideal outcome would still be that theirs wouldn’t be the first gay kiss on Disney. Like, the real power of Andi Mack has always been for us the number of doors it has opened to the shows that will come next. Cyrus and TJ walked so characters we have yet to meet could run.
Minsky: Oh, that’s true, yeah! I DON’T want to be the first gay kiss on the Disney Channel, you’re right.
Paste: We’ll come back to the dream scenario of a movie in a minute, but first, are there any stories you got to tell that you’re especially proud of?
Minsky: You know, the funny thing is that from Season One, we had wanted to do a story about that sort of casual racism, that idea of people thinking it’s okay to touch a black girl’s hair because it’s so cool. And we had touched on that in different moments, but then finally here we were in Season Three (Note: episode 3.17, “Arts and Inhumanities”) and it was like, we’re doing it! I’m very happy that we managed to get that in. But I’m also so happy that we did a Bar Mitzvah. I’m thrilled we got to read from the Torah. I love the shiva episode, Cyrus coming out to Jonah over bagels. I’m just so proud of all of it.
But if you want to know the one thing I’m most proud of, it I’m proud we got that cast. When I think back to the beginning of it all, Peyton was eleven. You just don’t know how these things are going to go. So to have it come to life the way that it did, it was just one of those things, like a Black Mirror episode, but a good one? You know, I’ve wanted to do a mother-daughter show for a long, long time, but I guess it took me this long to do it because I had to wait for Peyton Lee to be born!
Paste: Is there anything else you’d like to say about your experience with Andi Mack?
Minsky: It sounds GOOP-y, but it really was a dream experience. Working in television, people are always like, that’s so cool! But it’s really not. It can be hard, there are compromises, you can feel like you’re not doing anything worthwhile, and this was the exact opposite. And when this girl in Kentucky started this Andi Mack Thousand Cranes Project and there were these paper cranes with people saying what the show meant to them… I mean, that was very powerful and meaningful and a gift, and none of it was anything that I could have foreseen, and I’m just so grateful. I’m grateful to the willingness of the cast and to Disney’s support and to fans being so expressive. I’ve never had a job like it before.
Paste: What do you hope audiences will take away from the show?
Minsky: To me, the thing that I felt like I wanted to say to the audience is when Andi says to Jonah, do you ever wonder what it would have been like if we had met when we were older? And he says, someday we will be. And I think, for me in my life, nothing that I thought, “well that’s the end of that story!” turned out to be the end of the story. And I do want people to see those [kids as] people and think of them and wonder where they are, or try to guess what they might be doing.
Paste: Okay, we promised we’d get here—what about an Andi Mack movie? Any thoughts on what that could look like, should every fan’s dream come true?
Minsky: Oh, gosh! I would love to do an Andi Mack movie at some point. I want to get back with those characters, I want to get back with that cast, I want to be back in that world. But as my mother always said, you should leave a party when you’re having fun. And we had so much fun.
All three seasons of Andi Mack are now available to stream on the Disney NOW app.
Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic and audiobibliophile. She can be found @AlexisKG.