When fans have a chance to talk with Emilio Estevez, they don’t hesitate to tell him they’d like to see him return in “The Mighty Ducks” or “Young Guns.”
Now, the full-time director says, “we’ve ticked one of those boxes.”
Later this month, Estevez returns to acting as Gordon Bombay, the once-arrogant lawyer who coached a ragtag kids hockey team in the 1992 comedy, “The Mighty Ducks.”
Today, the team is a powerhouse, bent on winning and Bombay is no longer the coach.
In the new 10-part Disney+ series, “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers,” he’s approached by a hockey mom whose son has been cut by the Ducks. She wants to assemble a team that embraces the joy of the sport.
The new Gordon is more of a “truth teller,” Estevez says. Unlike the current Ducks coach, he tells the young players, “it is unlikely that you’re going to be a professional hockey player. The chances are a million to one. You have a better shot of winning the lottery.”
“He’s tasked with giving that harsh reality to them,” Estevez says.
For the mother – played by Lauren Graham – it’s about bringing back the joy of the game. “I don’t think there is nearly enough emphasis now on just being a good person and having a good time,” she says during a Zoom conference.
Relatives who have children in sports programs say it’s even more brutal than the new “Ducks” program suggests. “I think that’s what the series is looking at – how wrapped up we have gotten in achievement,” Graham says.
Executive Producer Steve Brill says making the Ducks invincible was the “logical extension” of the film series. “They got tied into the sports culture, which seemed to get more and more out of control.” The Ducks took a corporate turn, which didn’t fit with Bombay’s vision.
“We liked the idea of subverting expectations and having the Ducks become this powerhouse team and creating a new underdog,” says Executive Producer Josh Goldsmith. “The underdogs are those kids who are told if you can’t be a nationally ranked champion by age 12, then give it up. And those are the underdogs that we wanted to focus on for the show.”
In the film series, Bombay was engaged with the players – “being the coach we all wished we had,” Estevez says. “And now, I’m hiding out. Over the course of the show, he comes out of his shell.”
Working on both sides of the camera has been great preparation for the former Brat Packer. “I have a different appreciation now as an actor,” Estevez says. “I’m aware of what the director is going through and all the steps that have been taken to make sure that you are successful on any particular day.”
While Estevez was going to direct one of the 10 episodes, he decided it would be too much to both act and direct during a pandemic.
Executive Producer Michael Spiller says COVID-19 protocols made filming particularly complex. “There were days where we had our kids, we had photo doubles, we had hockey doubles and stunt doubles for all,” he says. “It’s sort of an exponential growth in terms of the complexity factor.”
To please those original “Ducks” fans, Brill says there will be callbacks to the original kid athletes. “We’re not ignoring the past,” he says. “We’ve always been trying to bring back people literally, emotionally and suggestively.”
The “Minnesota nice” that colored the original film series will be back, too, producers say.
“That Minnesota vibe? There’s nothing like it,” Estevez says. “I think the show speaks to that.”