UC Irvine Drama Alum Lilan Bowden on Playing Bex on Disney Channel’s “Andi Mack”

ANDI MACK – Disney Channel’s “Andi Mack” stars Lilan Bowden as Bex Mack (Disney Channel/Craig Sjodin)

UC Irvine drama alum Lilan Bowden says she has achieved a dream she never thought to reach for: starring in Disney Channel’s hit show “Andi Mack,” which begins its second season this fall.

The comedy-drama series for older kids and teens centers on Andi, a 13-year-old girl whose wayward older “sister” Bex (Bowden’s character) returns home to reveal that she is actually Andi’s mother. The premise is notable on a channel more known for cartoons and shows featuring mild preteen shenanigans.

“The plotline really spoke to me. I see Bex as someone who is trying to reconcile her previous life and her current life. She’s trying to become more responsible. And I relate to that, even though I don’t have a kid and I didn’t run away from home. It’s that universal struggle to find out what you are meant to do in life.”

Though Bowden knew in college that she wanted to act, she says she never imagined becoming a series regular on such a popular show. Her only aspiration was to have enough work to pay the rent. For the first decade after graduating from UC Irvine, she hustled to make that happen.

“I just assumed auditioning was going to be tough if I wanted to be an actor—just like med school is hard if you want to be a doctor. That’s just how it’s going to be. I took any job I could—doing improv, working on friends’ films, writing sketches. It was like hammering a tiny hammer at a dam until there was a crack.”

ANDI MACK – “Dancing in the Dark” – Ham takes Celia on a weekend getaway, so Bex emboldens Andi to host her first-ever dance party at the house – and then Amber shows up, dampening Andi’s big night. This episode of “Andi Mack” airs Friday, April 21 (8:30 – 9:30 P.M. EDT) on Disney Channel. (Disney Channel/Fred Hayes)

That breakthrough came last year when Bowden was offered the role of Bex. “They told me at a callback, which never happens. The director of the pilot said, ‘We liked your read and we’d love to offer you … the role of the grandma.’ And I was confused. She goes, ‘But if you think that’s not for you, we’d love to offer you the role of Bex.’ They were filming me and when I watched the tape back I saw how uncool my reaction was. I just started talking a mile a minute and making stupid jokes. I was so excited.”

Bowden, whose mother is Taiwanese, was also thrilled to land a show where the main characters are three generations of Asian-American women. “My mom only watches Taiwanese news. So it’s usually hard to get her to watch stuff I’m in, not because she’s not supportive but it just doesn’t appeal to her. But this was just her speed.”

As for season two? “I feel like Bex has so much more growing to do as a parent and a person. Also, I love spending time with this cast. The kids on the show and my mom (played by Lauren Tom of ‘The Joy Luck Club’) don’t feel like co-workers; we really do feel like a group of friends.”

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