Tuesday's Star Wars episode of The Goldbergs finds Adam (Sean Giambrone) and Erica (Hayley Orrantia) camping out for Return of the Jedi tickets. Beverly is nowhere in line, which is fine but a tad surprising to Wendi McLendon-Covey.
"I just remember when Return of the Jedi came out. It was like the second coming of Jesus almost," she tells TVGuide.com. "I was not allowed to line up for things ... but I don't think I would've done it. I don't like anything that much. But I can't believe Bev would let her babies wait like that!"
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That's because Beverly has bigger fish to fry and has directed all of her fierce, overprotective instincts on her dear Barry (Troy Gentile), who has secretly joined the wrestling team. Bev finds out and, naturally, isn't having it. "My beautiful boy Barry is the most talented kid that ever lived, obviously. He could die. Something could happen to his face," McLendon-Covey deadpans. "He could end up being just a head. Sometimes when you do bad things your mom doesn't want you to do, your head just pops off. That could happen." What does happen, though, is Bev "owns him in front of the entire school" that may or may not involve her showing off her own patented wrestling moves. "I shut it all down in the worst possible way that will put my son in therapy for many years," the actress says. "Barry will never want to come back home after college. I shame him like I always do."
But one child's shame is merely one mother's love — or in Bev's case, a smother's love. There is no length too far or SAT word too crazy to make up ("plorpf") or a Seven Minutes in Heaven closet too dark to hide in that Bev won't do all in the name of Barry, Erica and Adam. They might find her annoying, but McLendon-Covey just finds her loving.
"The thing about Bev is when she gets in her head to do something, she doesn't think twice about doing it; she just does it, especially for her kids. Her first idea is protect, protect, protect at all costs," McLendon-Covey says. "It doesn't matter if it's a good idea or not — it's never a good idea. She's not articulate and she doesn't like to be vulnerable, so she yells, otherwise there would be crying and she doesn't wanna do that because that's a sign of weakness. She really does do it because she loves her family so much and she just wants to be needed."
Bev, of course, is, based on creator Adam F. Goldberg's real smother, who wrote her TV alter ego a letter after meeting and watching a few episodes of the show. "She said, 'I love the show. It reminds me of all the fun I had with my family and my dear Murray' — who's no longer with us — 'I didn't know what I was doing at the time. I was just trying to get through the day and made it up as I went along,'" McLendon-Covey says. "I thought that was really sweet that she knows that. When you're a parent, every day is an improvisation — sometimes you can't run to your Dr. Phil book and find that chapter on what to do. You have to act on instinct and her instinct is to protect and be right. Don't show any cracks in the armor."
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The real Bev hasn't dispensed any smothering tips, but McLendon-Covey has perfected her own formula that has made Bev's overbearing concern hilariously bearable. The key to being a good smother is fairly obvious: mother knows best.
"Your children don't know everything — you know everything because you're mommy. So you stick with that," she says. "When they say things like, 'Leave me alone!' or 'I don't like you!' or 'You're driving me crazy!' that's just noise. Ignore that. Focus on the goal and get there. You're never wrong. If they slam the door, what they're saying is, 'Please open the door and come in!' If they push back, it's a fun game that you play. It's like playing hard to get when you're dating. All they're saying is, 'Please, mom. Discipline me. I want to spend more time with you being on restriction. I want more snuggles, more hugs, more scrapbooking time.' If you do that, you're golden."
The Bridesmaids and Reno 911! star, who thinks she'd be the "exact same way" if she had kids, believes that Bev's smothering and other criticisms (read: too loud) the show endured when it premiered are the very things that have made it a steadily growing fan favorite.
"I think what happened was, people looked at their own family mid-yell and went, 'Oh, wait. I guess this is realistic.' Families yell at each other! You put up with behavior from your family that you would never put up with anyone else!" McLendon-Covey says. "I think in the end, we have shown that everybody loves each other in this family. ... Anyone with parents and anyone with children can relate. It doesn't really have to be set in the '80s. Children trying to separate from their parents and parents not ready to let go — that's universal. That can be set at any time. But this is Adam's story and he grew up in the '80s. It adds charm to the show. There aren't cell phones. You can't get a hold of people right away. There are things about the '80s that are so magical."
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And McLendon-Covey hopes to stay in their anachronistic '80s for the foreseeable future — The Goldbergs is almost assured of a second season — even if that means more totally awesome '80s clothing.
"I don't miss those. I don't know why we looked so stupid. I really thought I was a fashion fox in the '80s. I had some gorgeous teddy bear sweatshirts with thick shoulder pads. Everything had giant shoulder pads. No one in the '80s had a neck," she says. "I've worn a lot of Bev's actual clothes she saved. I have a lot of fun things to wear, but there's no danger in me accidentally walking off with something. Some many wonderful stretch pants, but no, I won't be shoving those in my car under the dark of night."
The Goldbergs airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on ABC. Watch last week's episode here.