Telling a Teen’s Story Authentically

Disney channel’s Teen-Targeted series Andi Mack launched its third season last Monday, led by 14-year-old actress Peyton Lee. Multichannel News caught up with Lee to discuss the show and its authentic portrayal of multicultural images and storylines. Here’s an edited transcript of their conversation.

'Andi Mack' star Peyton Lee

'Andi Mack' star Peyton Lee

MCN:WhenAndi Mackfirst launched, did you think it would be as successful as it is?
Peyton Lee: I always knew in my heart that it was something special, but I guess I didn’t know how it would resonate with the audience until it did come out and became really popular. That was so exciting.

MCN:What is it about the series that excites you?
PL: I think one of the biggest things that excites me about the series is the unique storytelling. [Creator and executive producer] Terry [Minsky] always has this very special voice that comes through in every episode and through this authentic portrayal of a couple of teenagers living real lives, I feel like audiences can really appreciate the show for different reasons.

MCN:Why do you think it’s been so popular with audiences?
PL: What I believe draws people to the show is that it is so authentic and relatable. People want to see people like themselves on TV; they want to see themselves represented and see examples of the things that they’re going through in life on TV. I think that’s one thing that draws people to Andi Mack. Also, Disney has been super-supportive, and it’s such a unique and exciting platform to have Andi Mack on because it reaches so many kids and audiences in general.

MCN:How has your character developed and grown over the past two seasons of the show, and what should we expect from her in season three?
PL: In the first episode, Andi finds out that her sister is actually her mother and that sort of sets off the adventure of Andi figuring out who she is in the world, and she has her best friends Buffy and Cyrus around her. She has her family behind her. And I think with the help of both her friends and family, she’s sort of figuring out who she is and who she wants to be in the kind of relationships she wants to have with certain people. In the third season you can look forward to every single character figuring out who they are. I feel like at the core of the story, it’s always been Andi, Buffy and Cyrus, and I think going into that third season you’re going to start to see they’re all growing up and figuring out how to grow up and not grow apart. So they’re meeting new people and getting new friends, but they’re also still relying on that foundation of friendship that the three of them have built together.

MCN:As an Asian-American, how much importance do you give the show’s diverse cast?
PL: It’s so important to me and so exciting to me to start seeing Asian-Americans being portrayed on TV more commonly, and I feel like Andi Mack is such a great place for that to happen because so many kids are … able to see themselves in these characters. I think having a racially diverse cast is just one of many ways that we can reach more kids and and be relatable to a larger audience.

MCN:Are we beginning to see more Asian-American images on television, and in particular within kids’-targeted programming?
PL: I feel like it’s such an exciting time to be in this industry because we’re making so much progress in a lot of different social and racial situations. I feel like you’re starting to see more ethnic diversity in TV and in films. And I don’t I don’t know why it hasn’t been that way in the past. But being a part of moving towards a more equal place for the future is really exciting.

MCN:What are your aspirations for your career going forward?
PL: That’s so hard … I’m trying to focus on Andi Mack and do my best work here. I’d love to be in a movie or start directing in my future. Those are two big goals, but I’m hoping to work towards that in the future.

MCN:What drew you to television and who were some of your inspirations?
PL: I feel like there’s a part of me that always dreamed of being on TV. I feel like there’s something so unique about the whole business from the work to seeing other people’s work and you’re constantly surrounded by so many incredibly talented people. So I feel like it’s such a unique industry and business that I’ve always been drawn to. I feel like some of my big inspirations at least like in terms of artistry are Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone and Anne Hathaway.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.