Nancy Travis: Still 'Standing'


Nancy Travis is no stranger to sitcoms, having starred on both Becker and The Bill Engvall Show -- but even the actress admits her newest series, Last Man Standing, is more exciting than your average sitcom since it marks Tim Allen's long-awaited return to television. The series, which invokes all the classic tropes of a Tim Allen stand-up routine, was a hit out of the gate, scoring big in the ratings. In anticipation of episode three, I caught up with Nancy Travis to talk about her equally exciting small screen comeback, what it was like having to choose between two fall pilots and which famous former co-stars might be Standing in the wings!

ETonline: What was it about Last Man Standing that made you want to sign on?

Nancy Travis: Honestly, Tim Allen. I wasn't looking to do another sitcom but I was sent this script and found myself getting carried away with it and laughing out loud. Throw Tim Allen into the mix and there's a lot of potential there. Nobody knows how to work the sitcom format better than Tim Allen. We're trying to make a point of not being "The Bickersons." More often than not, we're both on the same side of the fence.

ETonline: Your invoking of the fence visual leads me to wonder if you realized the magnitude of being a part of Tim Allen's return to television.

Travis: Oh absolutely and believe me, I am riding those coattails [laughs] It's wonderful and thrilling. I knew Tim had a lot of fans and they came out in force to watch the show -- and they brought some of their friends. We hope they stay with the show because when you're starting with a family from scratch, you have to work hard to put all those pieces together. It takes time. But we're getting there.

ETonline: How does your mothering style compare to Vanessa's?

Travis: [laughs] I wish I could be the parent that she is. I get more exasperated than Vanessa does and probably scream a lot more than she does. Although if she did more of that, it might be funnier. I keep pushing the writers to let me go there.

ETonline: Looking ahead, what are you excited for people to see?

Travis: I hope that people develop a fondness for these characters, maybe see some of themselves in the characters and the situations and the dialogues that come up. People can watch and think, 'I see things the same way.' Or if not, hopefully they're entertained and laugh a little bit.

ETonline: Think we might get to see some TV reunions with Home Improvement or Bill Engvall Show on Last Man Standing?

Travis: Possibly. I think we're more likely to embrace reunions from Home Improvement, but that would be great. It would be great too if the show evolved into something equally iconic and lasting and quotable.

ETonline: Maybe Jennifer Lawrence [who played daughter Lauren on Bill Engvall] can cameo to promote The Hunger Games?

Travis: Oh, that would be great! This business is so funny. Honestly, she was on at 15, fresh from Kentucky when we made that show -- and while luck is a huge part of success in this industry, you could look at Jennifer and know she was going to go somewhere. She was driven and focused and very talented. I think that's a huge, huge part of it.

ETonline: You were also on the first two Hart of Dixie episodes -- was it hard to leave that show to do this one?

Travis: In all honesty, the choice was made for me since I was a guest star on Hart of Dixie and a regular on Last Man Standing. But there is something about that show that has a lot of heart. I loved that part and it's like a lover that you have to break up with to marry someone else. I do wish them well.

ETonline: Plus, it's not like the character was killed off -- she could return!

Travis: I know! When I knew I had to be written off, I thought it could be a drive by, but we’ll see.

ETonline: Not sure Hart of Dixie is going the gangland shooting route just yet!

Travis: [laughs] Not till sweeps, at least!

ETonline: You've been a part of many memorable projects, which do you get most often approached for?

Travis: So I Married an Axe Murderer. I hear that a lot. And I can tell who is an insomniac because I think it only plays at like three in the morning on cable now [laughs]. So whenever someone tells me they just saw it, I know they're not sleeping because it plays so late. The irony of that movie is that no one really went to see it in theaters, but it’s become this cult classic that people are constantly quoting to me, which is thrilling.

Last Man Standing airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.