‘The Goldbergs’: Adam F. Goldberg and Hayley Orrantia Preview Season 4

Change is coming for The Goldbergs for Season 4. The kids are growing up and Mama Goldberg (Wendi McLendon-Covey) will have even more opportunities to “smother” when she lands a new job — at her kids’ school! (Hey, she was always lurking around there anyway, right?) There will also be a long-awaited tribute to one of the biggest movies of the ’80s (hint: Sean Giambrone channels an iconic Judd Nelson character who clearly has something against Barry Manilow’s wardrobe), and a soundtrack that will surely include plenty of long-forgotten MTV hits.

We caught up with The Goldbergs creator and executive producer Adam F. Goldberg (who’s currently doing double duty with the upcoming fantasy sitcom Imaginary Mary) and actress Hayley Orrantia, who plays his fictional sister, Erica, on The Goldbergs, to get the scoop on the upcoming season of the ABC comedy. 

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“This year is about transitions and new identities,” Goldberg tells us. And no one will have a newer identity than his teen TV self. His ABC alter ego will be “proactive in establishing his identity as a cool badass and not a geek” when the show picks up (does that mean no more magic tricks or D & D?), and his TV sister’s senior year will be marred as she pines for her unlikely crush, Geoff Schwartz (Sam Lerner), who finally moved on from her at the end of last season.  In addition, matriarch Beverly Goldberg will become “a nearly unstoppable smother” after she takes a job as a substitute teacher at her kids’ high school, William Penn Academy.

Photo: ABC

Then there’s that movie-themed premiere episode, which is not to be confused with the annual “Adam’s Folly” movie tribute. This year, The Goldbergs will kick things off with an episode inspired by the 1985 John Hughes classic The Breakfast Club. Goldberg tells us he wanted to start the new season off with the episode that people pitch to him on a daily basis on Twitter.

Orrantia, who actually recorded a music video for the movie’s theme song, “Don’t You (Forget About Me”), as part of the homage, says she has been waiting for this particular movie tribute for a long time. “It’s a big episode,” she says. “We really wanted to touch on Breakfast Club this season. I am stoked. It’s been really fun, watching the set come to life, all the costumes… It’s been a really exciting thing for me.”

But don’t worry, ’80s movie lovers. The tributes don’t end with the season premiere. As has become a tradition on the ABC sitcom, Goldberg says there will still be another big movie-themed episode later this season.“Absolutely!” the showrunner promises. “Stay tuned to find out what it is as we spend months getting legal clearances,” he says, half joking. “It involves booking one of the biggest stars on the planet right now. Fingers crossed.”

As for other highlights for Season 4, “little” Adam is now a high schooler, so expect to see some growing pains as he tries to navigate ninth grade. “Adam is now a freshman,” Goldberg says. “The bottom of the social ladder, which is something he’s used to, but not on an adult level.  It’s a time when everything feels new and different and also somehow incredibly embarrassing. We will see Adam make several inventive, but less than genius, attempts to force friends, fitting in, and meeting ladies. Of course, he’ll have to get over his biggest and constant challenge: his family.”

And with his mom in the picture more than ever, expect the high school hijinks to be amped up. “This is [Adam’s] first year in high school, and so all the kids are now sharing the same school and dealing with all of the problems, and it just becomes that much more dramatic,” Orrantia explains. “Especially with Beverly being a teacher now at the same school. So, there’s a lot of chaos that’s going to be happening on the actual school grounds, more than there was the last three seasons.”

In addition, Orrantia’s character will have her own problems to deal with during her senior year at William Penn. “I think Erica is anticipating it being a very easy year for her, as a lot of seniors do,” Orrantia says. “Outside of all of that, I think she’s kind of going to be dealing with her relationship, or lack thereof, with Geoff now that he’s with Evie. That’s a big storyline, I think, for her character this season. It’s just her trying to work around heartbreak.”

Indeed, while Erica had some interesting attractions last season — first with Johnny Atkins (Sean Marquette) and later realizing that she might actually like Geoff Schwartz — it seems as though her brother Barry’s bestie has finally moved on from her after three seasons of rejections. “First of all, would you blame Geoff if he has?” Goldberg says. “Erica did thwart his every creative effort over and over again.  We’re getting some great stories out of their will-they-won’t-they love triangle, that’s for sure.”

Incidentally, like so many Goldbergs characters, both Geoff Schwartz and Johnny Atkins are real people. “John still has that ponytail to this day!” Goldberg tells us. “That’s the best part of all of this… I get emails from them all the time saying how surreal it all is.”

The new season of The Goldbergs will also lean on several guest stars, including the familiar recurring faces that fans have grown to love. “We may have a few fun cameos for you, but as always, we’re turning to our unbelievable recurring stars, Stephen Tobolowsky, Tim Meadows, Ana Gasteyer, Bryan Callen, and the JTP,” Goldberg says. “They kill every time they’re onscreen. Such amazing talent we’re so lucky to have scored.”

Goldberg is also lucky to have scored Orrantia, a singer who competed on the first season of The X Factor (remember Lakoda Rayne?) before she became an actress. Orrantia has performed ’80s hits on several episodes of the show — everything from the Bangles to Rush — so don’t be surprised if you see more of her music on Season 4. Of course, because she’s a ’90s kid, all of the music she sings on the show was originally released well before her time. Still, Orrantia has a few favorites, including Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” and the 1981 Rush song, “Tom Sawyer.” 

“My dad’s best friend, who was hanging out with us all the time when I was growing up, his favorite band was Rush,” Orrantia shares. “He talked about them all the time. But I never really listened to their music until this episode, and I actually really like this song. Sean Marquette, who plays Johnny Atkins, he actually gave me a Rush CD, he said, “Like, you really need to check this stuff out, it’s really good!”

The fourth season of The Goldbergs premieres Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 8 p.m. on ABC.