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Emilio Estevez skates back into acting with 'Mighty Ducks'

Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) still likes ice but has given up hockey in Mighty Ducks: Game Changers. Photo courtesy of ABC
Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) still likes ice but has given up hockey in "Mighty Ducks: Game Changers." Photo courtesy of ABC

LOS ANGELES, March 24 (UPI) -- Emilio Estevez had left behind an acting career with hits like The Breakfast Club, Stakeout and Young Guns to focus on directing -- until the Disney+ series The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers came along.

"It's interesting to come back now using The Mighty Ducks as a re-entry vehicle," Estevez told a recent Television Critics Association panel via Zoom.

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Mighty Ducks creator Steven Brill developed the series. The 58-year-old Estevez said he was pleased with the new iteration of his character, hockey coach Gordon Bombay.

In the original 1992 film, Bombay was a lawyer sentenced to community service coaching a kids hockey team. By 1996's D3: The Mighty Ducks, Bombay retired as coach of the team.

When Game Changers begins, Bombay has retired from law, too. He runs an ice rink, but forbids hockey.

"He's sort of hiding out," Estevez said. "He's eating leftover birthday cakes from kids' parties and leftover pizza. He's completely disengaged from the world, which is very unlike the Bombay that we saw the last time we saw him in D3."

Bombay meets Alex (Lauren Graham) when she comes looking for a rink in which to start her youth hockey team. The Mighty Ducks' current coach kicked her son, Evan (Brady Noon), off the team. Bombay is a tough sell on the idea.

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"For me, it was a shift because my character was always very engaged with the kids," Estevez said. "We see him getting re-engaged, thanks to not only the kids training there, but also through Lauren's character drawing him out."

The films saw the Mighty Ducks become champions with Bombay's coaching. In Game Changers, the Ducks are such a successful team that they've become too obsessed with winning. Alex wants to create a hockey team on which kids can just have fun playing.

"What the series is looking at is: How important is winning?" Graham said. "How wrapped up have we gotten in achievement?"

In Game Changers, the Mighty Ducks have become such an institution that the parents in the TV series see the team as their children's big break. Parents invest in private coaches and summer clinics so their kids can be more competitive.

"I just loved the message of the show, which is how to find your joy, not to be corny," Graham said. "I just love the positivity of the show."

Game Changers finds Bombay reinforcing Alex's perspective. Even the best young hockey players likely won't become professionals, so they might as well have fun.

"He's tasked with giving that harsh reality to them," Estevez said.

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Graham has three adopted children -- Maria, Michael and Nikolai -- and is involved with boyfriend Peter Krause's son, 19-year-old Roman. The 54-year-old said she has watched Roman playing sports and observed parents taking it too seriously.

"I don't think there is nearly enough emphasis now on just being a good person and having a good time," Graham said. "Go make mistakes and grow up."

Mighty Ducks: Game Changers emphasizes "kindness, inclusivity and joy," Graham said.

The show also includes Estevez behind the scenes. He has an executive producer credit, but leaves the writing to Brill, Cathy Yuspa and Josh Goldsmith.

"I will certainly make suggestions from time to time," Estevez said. "The arc of the story is really in the hands of Steve, Cathy and Josh."

Estevez said he was interested in directing an episode but filming during the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult to add directing to his plate. However, years of directing (Bobby, The Way and The Public) made his return to acting a bit easier.

"I'm very patient with myself," Estevez said. "I have a different appreciation now as an actor. When I show up on set, I'm aware of what the director is going through and all the steps that have been taken."

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Mighty Ducks: Game Changers premieres Friday on Disney+.

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