Ah, the ’80s. A time of loud patterns, big hair and even bigger shoulder pads. It’s a time rife with comedic potential, which is what makes the setting such fertile territory for ABC’s freshman comedy, “The Goldbergs.”
Midway through its first season, the comedy, which stars Jeff Garlin and Wendi McLendon-Covey and focuses on the loud, loving title family, has proven itself to have a magnificent eye for detail when it comes to its period setting. McLendon-Covey, who portrays the hilarious “smother” Beverly, tells Zap2it that the museum-like set sometimes unfortunately leads to some fashion choices she’d wish stayed in the past.
Below is our full Q&A with the actress, who opens up about this week’s episode, what it’s like portraying a real person and, of course, the fashion.
Zap2it: For the role of Beverly, you’ve really got this whole “smother” thing down perfectly. Now, I know the role is based on creator Adam Goldberg’s actual mom, but is there anyone in your life you’ve modeled the role on, if telling won’t get you into too much trouble?
Wendi McLendon-Covey: [laughs] Yeah, my own mother. I mean, my mom was very overprotective. She wasn’t as spicy with her language as Beverly is, but she could shut down a question like nobody else. You know, when you become a teenager and your mom tells you you can’t do something and then you dare to ask why. Ask a direct question, there’s a direct answer. Yeah, my mom could shut that down like no one else. Shut it down and guilt you into never asking another question.
Have you gotten to meet the real Bev Goldberg?
I did meet her. She is a delight. She is an intense woman and is very proud of her boys. In real life, there is three boys and, of course, we changed Eric into Erica for the show, but very, very proud of her boys. Within the first five minutes, she pretty much gave me the resumes of everyone in her family. Cousins and in-laws and whatever. She was very, very proud of her family. So that’s what makes her tick. Everything is motivated by love and pride.
I imagine, since she’s so outspoken, she might’ve said something to you about how she feels about her portrayal. Have you heard how she feels?
She’s happy with it. Look, I try and make her sympathetic. I understand why she does what she does. She loves her kids and she’s willing to make a fool of herself to protect them and to keep them loving her. And yes, she wants hugs for God’s sakes! She wants them and she’s gonna go after them! I don’t feel like I’m making fun of her, I don’t feel like the show is doing that. She so could’ve gone the other way. I mean, she could’ve decided that she hated it, and she would’ve told me that within the first 30 seconds. She would’ve told me that before introducing herself.
That’s got to be sort of nerve-wracking to try and create a comedic role based on a person who you don’t want to disrespect. Has that been scary?
Oh, absolutely. Some people just wouldn’t care, like, “Yeah, well, whatever. I’m disrespecting her and that’s what it is, as long as I’m getting a laugh.” And I never want to be that person. I would not want to disrespect her. She doesn’t deserve that. I want people to understand her and think she’s funny, but I want them to ultimately like her and respond to her and feel like, “Oh yeah, as a parent, I go through that myself.” So I think I’m doing that, I don’t know. Look, if she’s happy, I’m happy.
So, we know this week’s episode includes an issue with Bev and Erica [Hayley Orrantia] regarding a prank diary entry and a college party. What can you tell us about that?
Well, it turns out that Bev has been snooping in Erica’s diary and Bev knows that there is a decoy diary and she knows that there’s also a real diary. Erica knows that Bev knows these things and she starts lying in both diaries, and Bev is so distraught with what she’s reading, she’s just about ready to go off the deep end.
Like most teenage daughters and mothers, they butt heads and they yell and they scream at each other, but it’s just because one wants to pull away and grow up and the other one doesn’t want her to grow up; wants her to stay little forever and that’s just not gonna happen. So Erica has to call the person that she most despises at the moment to help her get out of a jam and, you know, hilarity ensues. And we’re all treated to a music video from Big Tasty [Barry’s rap alter ego, played by Troy Gentile]. It’s all good.
The show has been so great about finding or recreating these iconic ’80s artifacts. What’s one of the things that’s been incorporated into an episode that you were most surprised that they were either able to find or recreate so perfectly?
I want to say the “Goonies” episode that’s coming up. They really, really took great pains to make that as much like the movie as possible because I guess that was one of Adam’s favorite movies growing up, so that was kind of cool. And then the episode that just aired a week ago where they go to the school dance and Bev is chaperoning. Wearing the same parachute pants as your son, because that’s not child abuse. That’s not totally weird. Someone actually taught us the actual Safety Dance, and I forgot that was a real dance. To one of the most annoying songs in history. But yeah, it was a real dance. So that was fun.
I mean, our set is like a museum. The stuff that’s on our set, from the electronic Simon game to our gigantic VCR, it’s just so perfect. It really is like going back in a time machine and saying, “Oh my gosh, I remember having wallpaper with geese on it in the ’80s. I remember these National Geographics.” Yeah, it’s pretty wild.
Speaking of ’80s artifacts, obviously the fashion is really important to the show, like you said with the parachute pants. I remember when “Mad Men” first started, the women of the show said they’d never wear anything ’60s-inspired in real life because of how much they have to wear it at work. Is there something you’ve been having to wear so much of on the show that you can’t even consider in real life anymore?
[Laughs] Luckily, there is no cross-pollination between my looks in real life and my looks on the show. Yeah, there is no overlap. And yes, the fashion is very important. But I really have to wonder what the h*** we were thinking in the ’80s. Come on. These sweaters, these loud sweaters. These high-waisted pants! That cut in to your rib cage!
Yeah, there is no overlap between my looks, but I will go into my trailer every day that I work and see something horrifying hanging in my closet and just say, “Well, OK. Part of the job. Let’s put this jumpsuit on.”
“The Goldbergs” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC