Last month, Allison got together with actress Hayley Orrantia to talk her storied years of work on The Goldbergs, her career trajectory, 80s pop culture, and potential musical collaborations! Read on for our exclusive, spoiler-filled interview with Hayley Orrantia!
I’m Allison with Josh at the Movies. Thank you for taking the time to sit down with me today. Since The Goldbergs takes place in the 80s, I figured a great icebreaker would be a few decade-specific questions! What are your favorite 80s movies?
HAYLEY ORRANTIA: You know, I really haven’t challenged myself to watch that many. So my go-to that I always say is Breakfast Club. It’s just a great movie. I feel like I just have to go with that one. I seriously, as funny as it is for being on an 80 show, I don’t watch anything from the 80s, but again, that’s what Adam Goldberg’s job is.
Is there anything you learned about 80s pop culture that you didn’t know before it came up in the show?
HAYLEY: Oh man, it’s wild being nine years in—it all sort of blends into this nine-year-long movie. I feel like for the most part, when it comes to pop culture references, I’m pretty aware of that outside of like not seeing 80s movies. I remember growing up and hearing about the band Rush, but it wasn’t really my genre. Up until AJ [Michalka] and I had an episode where we had to cover a Rush song, (it was the Tom Sawyer song) and it was actually really fun. I feel like I discovered it of sorts on this show.
You basically grew up on the show—what do you wish you could tell your younger self about the experience?
HAYLEY: I’ve actually recently had a lot of moments where I’ve been walking around the Sony lot and being very sentimental/nostalgic with it. I have spent my entire twenties working on this show. Sometimes I forget to look up from my phone and realize, I’ve been working on a film lot for nine years. So I pinched myself a lot with that.
What I would tell my younger self though… I guess, it’s easy to say but harder to do. I would just say try to not stress the little things, and just enjoy it because it’s easy on a day-to-day basis to get wrapped up in ‘I want to be doing this’ or ‘I should be doing this at this point’ or focusing on career stuff. I get that from my mom a lot where it’s the workaholic energy of wanting to go onto the next thing—keep it moving, the train never stops. I would probably tell my younger self to take some time to just continue to look up and appreciate it. Who gets to walk around a lot like this for nine years, and create a sort of family with the crew and the cast. Just take every moment and try to appreciate it as much as you can along the way.
Have you seen your TV family evolve into a second family at this point? How did everyone cope with the loss of George Segal, or as the Goldbergs know him, Pops?
HAYLEY: We have definitely become like a second family. I feel, interestingly enough, we don’t necessarily hang out off set a ton, because we are together all year round. For the most part, we see each other more than our own families often. We get so much downtime together. And when in not-COVID times, we would do these family celebrations. Every Christmas we would all (as a cast) bring our partners and our friends or family, and do a trip to Disneyland and walk around the park together. That’s always fun. Wendi McLendon-Covey, who plays Beverly, she’s amazing at party planning. So she’ll do like a middle of the year season party. It’s usually her birthday party or a Christmas party that she’ll host for the entire crew and everyone.
Then of course, the party we get to do too. Honestly we’ve had along the same crew since season one of the show. I have recently come to terms with the fact that we are nearing the end of this journey, most likely, and I don’t know what life is going to look like, not being able to come to work and see some of the people that are like my family. Certain people that are on crew I look forward to seeing every day. I don’t know how I’m gonna function without them in a way, we’re like a second family.
When it comes to having lost George Siegel earlier this year… I think that was a really big bonding moment for all of us. I don’t know how many people know this, but when he passed back in March, we were all filming our season finale episode of of season eight. We were all together with not only the main cast and crew, but every guest star you can fathom. It was in that scene where we were at the beach house before the proposal happens, and we got the news then. It was just a wild moment to all be in the room together, and get that news, all immediately crying. Just being together in a way it was so much better than having found out at home individually. We were all able to be there for each other.
At the beginning of this season, season nine, where we pay tribute to him in our first episode, that was another wave of grieving together as a family. That was necessary, because it takes time and it still feels very weird not having him there. All of that sort of adds to us really bonding together as a group of people. We’re very grateful for that.
Given the sibling you effectively portray is the real Adam F. Goldberg’s brother Eric, how did you work to formulate Erica as a character given the gender switch? Do you still try to stay true to him as a person, or has Erica become a separate entity at this point?
HAYLEY: Erica in a lot of ways has become a separate entity. At the very beginning of this show, I had sat down with Adam F. Goldberg. He wanted to sit down with every actor individually and tell them, this is my family member, this is a story about my life, wanting to do right by each of them. My character was the only one that was a different gender. While that was great for me that I was able to get cast because otherwise I wouldn’t be in the show! Selfishly, I love it! In a way, from what I’ve heard, Eric, the real life Eric Goldberg is kind of okay with it too. There’s certain stories that they get to tell on the show that he can make the excuse of, ‘oh no, that didn’t really happen to me.’
Adam told me at the beginning, as season one was unfolding, my character didn’t really have any specific storylines at the top. I think it’s because he expressed that he didn’t have an older sister. He didn’t really know what to pull from. It took some time to really shape what Erica’s story was going to look like. I loved this, because I was able to tell him about my love of music and that became a big part of the character. For me to be able to do both of the things that I love within this show that I’m obsessed with, it was just a perfect mesh of all of those things. I think that while there are a lot of storylines that are pulled from Eric and his siblinghood with Adam Goldberg, there are some things that I’ve been able to put in there that are unique to Erica that are not Eric.
We’ve gotten to cover so many great songs. And then of course they cast AJ Michalka to play Laney, who’s obviously a musician herself. I’ll take any time they let me sing with AJ. I will do it, whenever they want.
Now that Aly & AJ has made a big comeback, have you ever discussed a musical collaboration with your on-air best friend, AJ Michalka?
HAYLEY: You know, we’ve casually make comments here and there like, oh, that would be so fun. Do I think it could still happen someday? Maybe. I don’t know. But I am by far their biggest fan. I feel like I embarrass myself in a way. Anytime one of their songs come out or whatever, if they go on tour, I’m there. I’m obsessed with them. I just think they’re so talented. If the time ever comes where we get to collaborate together, I will be in heaven. They’ve been pumping out so many new songs lately and it’s just filling my soul. I need it. So I’m very glad.
I grew up in that era of Disney channel when Aly and AJ were featured. Their song, “No One,” an acoustic kind of vibe from Disney channel… I was obsessed! I was a fan, and then I get cast on the show. A few episodes in, they finally cast my friend Lainey. They say, ‘oh, this girl AJ is going to play your friend.’ And I’m like, ‘okay,’ I don’t know her.
So then we go to do rehearsal. She walks on stage and we’re immediately jumping into rehearsal. And I realized like, oh my God, that’s AJ from Aly and AJ. I internalized it to be cool on the outside, but immediately called my mom. I was like, ‘oh my God.’ And she said, well be cool. She’s a person. Whatever, 12 year old me is fine. AJ is the sweetest human being alive. She’s so cool down to earth, amazing. On top of meeting somebody that you already love. It was great.
My favorite story though: later that week of filming, our first week together, my mom was cleaning out my childhood bedroom. She found a scrapbook that I had made. In it, there was a page that said ‘my idols’ and it was like all the Disney Channel. So it was like, Miley Cyrus, Emily Osment, and then there was Aly and AJ! I was like, ‘do I show her this photo?’ And I did. She wasn’t super creeped out, I guess, because we’re best friends now, but I’m still a big fan! They’re both amazing, Aly and AJ. I’m just forever a fan of theirs.
Obviously Erica is a part of you since you have been playing her for so long—how do you and Erica personally differ most?
HAYLEY: I want to say this, but I also know that maybe my mom or dad, or even my boyfriend might be like, ‘no, you have your moments.’ I am not as mean as Erica can be, because there are times where the writers will have her say things that I’m just like, this cuts a little deep for something that’s supposed to be over the surface, just like thrown away. Erica can be a little rude, especially in her relationship with Jeff. Last season when they had a breakup, I feel like it was necessary because they needed to have this sort of moment for Erica to recognize that she can’t just walk all over him all the time. A healthy relationship. I would like to think that we differ in how we speak to people. You know, call my mom. She might tell you differently, I don’t know.
The times we are living in right now are perhaps the most unique, as well as the most difficult in recent history. How do you separate yourself mentally from the politically-charged health crisis we must navigate daily (as well as I’m sure on set) and shift to the more carefree time capsule of the 80s portrayed by The Goldbergs.
HAYLEY: A lot of breathing exercises… No, really though, I think when 2020 first happened and we shut down. We tried to restart the whole season with COVID protocols, it was a lot to take on. The climate of what’s going on in the world and everything.. tt was a really hard time. But we just leaned on each other as a family, and as a cast and crew. We’ve been working together so long and we have such respect for each other, everyone was so incredibly good about trying to just come to work and go home and be safe and wear your masks. And despite how irritating some of these protocols might’ve been, it’s necessary to keep everybody safe and also to keep everybody in work, and making a living to feed their family.
We all did a really good job of maintaining that during the first season back. Now it’s sort of dialed back into a normalcy. We’re all familiar with how everything’s laid out. It’s been a little easier, but honestly I think that for me, I just have to disassociate when I need to take care of my own mental health. It can be overwhelming, and obviously you don’t want to completely hide from what’s happening in the world. Being aware is one thing, but also knowing when to turn off the phone and dive into your real life with the people that you see every day and grounding yourself in that—to me that has been the only thing to help balance all the high intensity emotions that have come in with the last couple of years.
What was it like coming back to set to film after the long covid hiatus? Did you pick up any new hobbies over the pandemic? How did you stay content?
HAYLEY: Early in the pandemic, I really wanted to interview friends of mine of all different kinds of industries on Instagram Live, and discover how the pandemic affected their industry, and how they’ve noticed it affected their career in general. It was fascinating. I mean, I talked to everyone from stylists, makeup artists, actors, cops, nurses. It was really interesting. I fell in love with hosting-related things. I’ve tried developing projects where I can do more, and then just on a personal level, I’ve dove into interior design. Granted, we’ve all been home. I want to create an environment where if I’m gonna be here 24/7, then I want it to be a space that really aesthetically stimulates me. It’s been really fun to get involved in more interior design stuff.
I heard you flip houses with your family in your spare time? Can you elaborate!
HAYLEY: Yes. Here in Nashville, my dad and I have a company. We’ve been flipping homes and in the process of finding the next project to move on to. It’s a lot of fun. I just, I don’t know what it was. I just fell in love with design. My mom has a really good eye for it too. So I love to like bounce ideas off of her. My whole family is kind of involved in real estate in general. It’s been a really fun family project as well.
I heard that you were just cast in your first starring film role in Lionsgate’s The Fight Before Christmas, written by Sara Endsley who also scripted one of my partner’s personal favorite rom-coms, Holiday in Handcuffs. Have you started filming yet? Can you tell us anything about it?
HAYLEY: A lot has happened in the last couple months with this movie. We shot it back in May in Chicago and it was such a blast. I shot it with Dermot Mulroney, Janel Parrish, Emilie Modaff, and Michael Naizu. It was such a fun experience. I’d never gotten to lead a film before. That was a lot of pressure, but it’s a hilarious kind of raunchy oddball comedy. Don’t tune in with maybe your grandma and expect it to be like a Hallmark Christmas movie. It’s more of a Bridesmaids-type humor meets the holiday stuff. I’m really excited for people to see it, and they actually have since changed the title: Christmas is Canceled. It airs on Amazon streaming, on December 17th.
So a lot has happened in the last few months with this, but, Janel and I have been in communication every day about it, and we’re dying to get the assets so we can send out the trailer. Thankfully, we’ve gotten to see it already. I’m just so excited about it. I think we had so much fun. It’s going to translate really well to audiences on screen. So we’ll see.
So Erica and Jeff (Geoff) recently got engaged. Have you brought any of your own experiences into their relationship? How happy were you to see them make up in the script?
HAYLEY: I think that I love Jerica, as Sam and I call us. We both have been rooting for this relationship for so long. It’s really exciting to see it all kind of fall in place, like the way that it is now. We are coming up on filming a wedding episode very soon. As far as incorporating my own… I am in a long-term relationship Greg Berman, and we have so much fun together. We laugh together. Our relationship is very different from Jeff and Erica, but there’s elements of any relationship that I think are typical enough that you can put in there, and it’s very relatable.
I will say that since Jerica got engaged, the amount of questions I have gotten from friends and family and people being like, ‘is he proposing soon, what’s happening?” And I’m like, ‘dial it back like a second or third time here, we’re easing into it.’ That has definitely reflected into my own personal life in that way, how it goes. I love it. Honestly, life imitates art in a lot of very weird ways. I’ve seen it happen on the show and other elements with my character. It doesn’t surprise me that it was panned out to be this as well.
Where do you hope Erica ends up 10 years from now?
HAYLEY: 10 years from now… I know we got a little snippet of her. If you ever tuned into Schooled, our 90s spin-off show, we got to see a little bit of her in a business suit. I guess at that point they had alluded to the fact that her and Jeff were together still. Honestly, once they let Erica find herself in college and discover that she will make a really great lawyer, I imagine she’s working at her own practice. Doing law to whatever degree that would be. Of course, I’m sure Beverly Goldberg would be involved in all of her cases cause she couldn’t help herself, which would be hilarious.
I think there could be a lot of really fun storylines if we ever got to like peek into that world. But I think she’s probably, working, focusing on her career, her relationship, and to be honest, we’ve talked about this as well as a cast. I’m like, ‘would they have kids?’ I feel like Erica still has this sort of immaturity—she still has a ways to go. Erica, just knowing her, she would have some reservations and some fears and, you know, especially having a grandmother like Beverly Goldberg, and not knowing what’s going to unfold in that. I don’t know if her and Jeff would have kids. That’s where I’m at mentally.
The 80s was a big time for women to focus on their career and like prove themselves as breadwinners, and taking care of ourselves. And so I think Erica would be what sort of fall into that mindset too. I don’t know if kids would be at the forefront of her mind.
The Goldbergs has now been on air for nine seasons. What plans do you have for your career following the show’s ultimate conclusion? Where do you see your path down the line—pursuing more television or more music?
HAYLEY: That’s a tough question for me because I have tried to juggle for a really long time, the show and music. I love both, but they do say you have to give a hundred percent to one of them if you really want to see that sort of unfold to some degree. There’s a part of me that wants to take some time to just focus on music. But at the same time, I loved filming this movie in May. I think that those one-off projects might be something that would balance really well with me trying to juggle a musical career at the same time. I would like to think if people will have me, that I could be shooting a movie or two every year, and then balancing a ton of songwriting, putting out an album, or going on the road. Then down the line, if there is another show that comes into my life and it sells me the way that the writing of The Goldbergs did, then you know, that’ll be what it is.
I can see doing more acting for sure.
Thanks again to Hayley for taking the time to chat with us. We can’t wait to see what you do next, and look forward to following your career!
The Goldbergs is currently airing season 9 on ABC, and can be streamed in full on HULU,
Christmas is Cancelled comes to Amazon Prime on Friday, December 17th.