Scott D. Pierce: Disney handled terrible situation well, but can ‘Andi Mack’ survive a sex scandal?

(Craig Sjodin | Disney Channel | The Associated Press) This undated photo provided by the Disney Channel shows Stoney Westmoreland as Henry "Ham" Mack in Salt Lake City. The 48-year-old Westmoreland has been dropped from the sitcom “Andi Mack,” on which he plays the grandfather of the teenage title character. He was arrested for allegedly attempting to have a sexual relationship with an online acquaintance he believed was 13.

That the Disney Channel’s made-in-Utah series “Andi Mack” got caught up in a sex scandal is, yes, shocking.

“Andi Mack” is a sweet, funny, progressive, smart show that kids love; that parents can watch with their children; that models good behavior on a weekly basis. And, oh my heck, it’s produced in family-friendly Utah.

So the news that Stoney Westmoreland — who had a recurring role as Andi’s grandfather Ham Mack — had been arrested and charged with trying to set up a sexual tryst with a person he believed to be a 13-year-old boy was startling. And disturbing, to say the least.

If there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s that none of us knows everything about our friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members.

Disney certainly didn’t know about Westmoreland. He did not have a criminal history, just a list of credits that dates back more than two decades and includes appearances on “NewsRadio,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” “The Wonderful World of Disney,” “Supernatural,” “Bones,” “NCIS,” “Breaking Bad,” “Justified,” “Scandal” and “S.W.A.T.”

The Disney Channel did what it had to do, and quickly. Westmoreland was fired the day Disney learned of the charges.

"Given the nature of the charges and our responsibility for the welfare of employed minors, we have released him from his recurring role and he will not be returning to work on the series,” said a Disney spokeswoman.

“Andi Mack,” which is filmed in and around Salt Lake City and Magna, centers on a teenage girl (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) who, as the series began in April 2017, learns that the couple (Lauren Tom and Westmoreland) she had believed were her parents are actually her grandparents, and that her older “sister” (Lilan Bowden) is actually her biological mother.

The regular cast includes several actors in their midteens, with lots of other teenagers in guest roles and as extras.

(Photo courtesy Craig Sjodin/Disney Channel) “Andi Mack” stars Asher Angel as Jonah Beck, Sofia Wylie as Buffy Driscoll, Joshua Rush as Cyrus Goodman, Peyton Elizabeth Lee as Andi Mack, Lilan Bowden as Bex Mack, Lauren Tom as Celia Mack, and Stoney Westmoreland as Ham Mack.

Hey, if there was something to criticize about the way the Disney Channel handled this, I’d do it. But there isn’t.

Keep in mind that, according to charging documents, Westmoreland admitted to sending pornographic pictures and that he believed the person he sent them to and was talking to was a 13-year-old boy.

Westmoreland's character wasn't integral to most “Andi Mack” storylines. He had a “recurring role,” appearing in 38 of 58 episodes produced for Seasons 1-3.

The first of 14 remaining Season 3 episodes — the first new installment since the story broke — airs Friday at 6 p.m. on the Disney Channel. According to a Disney spokeswoman, the producers are editing Westmoreland out.

That’s also the right decision.

The logistics of removing Ham Mack were, no doubt, complicated for some episodes. And, as of this writing, we don’t know how or if his absence will be explained.

Odds are that most of the show’s tween viewers won’t notice. But parents should think about what they’re going to tell the kids who ask.

Whether this incident will influence Disney’s decision to renew “Andi Mack” for a fourth season is also unknown. I’m hoping it returns, but I’m not altogether sure it will.