Tim Allen is celebrating a decade of success and camaraderie on Fox’s Last Man Standing, ahead of the comedy’s bittersweet goodbye on May 20 at 9 p.m. EW has your first look at photos from the final two episodes titled “Baxter Boot Camp” and “Keep on Truckin’.”
“I’m not a ‘feelings’ type of guy. That’s why I do comedy, to push things away,” Allen, who portrayed Mike Baxter, tells EW when asked how he’s feeling about the series finale. “I get attached to people even on movie sets and those shoots are only three to four months. So when we wrap and everyone goes home, I go, ‘But wait! I thought we were going to be friends!'”
“We worked on Last Man Standing for 10 years years,” he continues. “All of us actors know and see each other, but the characters, Mike and Vanessa Baxter, the kids, and all the other characters we developed have disappeared. They no longer exist. That’s the nicest way I can put it.”
Allen recalls his last day on set while still shooting some of his final scenes alongside Nancy Travis, who played his wife Vanessa, and noticing the sets were already being cleared.
“Nancy and I were looking back and remembering Kaitlyn [Dever] when she was just 13 or 14 and how she grew up with all of this when we noticed they were taking down the sets,” he explains, referring to the actress who played his character’s daughter, Eve.
“You just think, Whoa! And it takes your breath away. Everyone had a different reaction to the show’s ending, some worried about their next move. They had a job for 10 years that helped feed their families and now that’s over,” he continues. “We had a year to plan for it but you’re never really prepared. And it’s beyond that, too. We were able to feed our families while sharing this great experience together. I loved going to work every day. That’s a remarkable thing to own and a remarkable thing to lose.”
The Colorado native is proud of how everyone “from Disney on down” pulled together to give the series a proper send-off during a pandemic. With no audience, Allen was able to spend extra time during those final days visiting each set individually — similar to when he bid adieu to Home Improvement.
“I sat in every room on that set, but I did that on Home Improvement also. I’m just one of those guys,” he recalls. “Earl Hindman and I would go backstage and we’d say, ‘I’m always going to love this.’ I still remember where that was all these years later. I honored it. I was grateful for it. And I’m humbled that I had the chance to do Home Improvement, and now twice as humbled to have done Last Man Standing for two years longer. I went from being a club road comic to achieving all of this. I really love this family, even with the cast changes we had throughout the series. The growth of this family was amazing.”
The final episode is the first written by Allen for the series, though he’s modest about his contributions. In “Keep on Truckin’,” the Baxter family and their friends (including Jay Leno‘s Joe Leonard) attend a memorial for the truck Mike has been restoring for 10 years after it was stolen.
“It’s a wink and a nod to the fourth wall,” he says. “So we tell this story about Mike losing his beloved truck. Originally the truck was going to be wrecked but I said, ‘No, I own this truck and I’m not going to wreck it.’ In every scene, we tried to delicately balance what happens when you miss something that brought so many people together. It’s a constant reminder of what the 10 years meant as a shared experience. There were some complaints that it was too Deadpool-like, breaking the fourth wall too much if you will. We pulled it back and we got it done. It was a clever way to walk a fine line between Tim Allen playing Mike Baxter and giving a wink to the camera.”
Allen is taking with him a lot more than memories, revealing he owns a lot of memorabilia from Last Man Standing that adds to his huge collection of items from Home Improvement.
“I have a crapload of stuff in my car shop and often I wonder what the heck I’m going to do with all this stuff?” he wonders. “At my shop where we repair hot rods, in the back I’ve got the entire Tool Time set that’s 95 percent complete. Next to it is Mike Baxter’s office where he did the vlogs. This show will be close to my mind and heart pretty much all the time, especially with all the props I took with me.”
A recent chat with an out-of-this-world friend helped put the ending of the show into perspective for Allen, and with a renewed sense of excitement about the future.
“I was speaking to my friend Buzz Aldrin recently and when we spoke about this milestone he told me, ‘Mission accomplished.’ And that’s it. We were ready to finish the show around season 7 but we got to do 8, which matched Home Improvement, but then we got 9. We finished our mission and I’m much better today than I was a week ago and I’ll be better next week.”