Exclusive: Wendi McLendon-Covey on The Goldbergs season 10, BBC adaptations and life after 40
The Goldbergs will return for a season 10
Wendi McLendon-Covey received her big break at 42 in smash comedy Bridesmaids, and then her lead role in a network comedy at 43 - so the idea that there are no roles in Hollywood for women over the age of 40 is a topic the comedian is keen to dismantle.
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"There are lots more roles for women over 40, so much so we need to stop saying there are no roles," she tells HELLO! "I know a lot of people in that age bracket working, and working more than they ever had."
WATCH: Wendi McLendon-Covey in The Goldbergs
Wendi recently signed a first-look deal with Sony Pictures Television that will see her develop for the studio across all platforms. The deal also comes as ABC also renewed her long-running family sitcom The Goldbergs for a 10th season and Wendi continues her successful podcast Generation Ripe, with fashion art director and producer Dfernando Zaremba, that interviews 'teenagers over 40'.
At 52, life is in full swing for Wendi - and things are only looking up.
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"I am not saying my 30s sucked, but it just didn't feel as good as my 40s. [If you're in your 30s], life is about to get so good," she says. "When you get older you say, 'no honey, what do you bring to my table? I know what I bring so you have to match this.'"
Ahead of the finale of The Goldbergs season nine, HELLO! spoke to Wendi about deciding to say yes to season 10, looking back at a 30-year career - and the BBC adaptation she is desperate to adapt.
Can you talk about the Sony deal and what it means for you?
What it means is that I will get to tell some fun stories - and maybe some of the projects will be a vehicle for me, maybe they won't!
I don't need to necessarily be in everything; I have projects in mind that I would love to see some of my funny friends star in and so at the end of the day the plan is to tell really good, relatable funny stories.
Selfishly I know I should say these things are all for me but I am an enthusiastic audience member and know a lot of funny people and I would love to sit on my couch and eat popcorn and watch.
'I thought if I could ever do that I would feel like a superhero'
What are the first few projects already percolating?
There is one thing that I want to bring over to the states from the BBC - I won't say what it is - but it is a project that I am just salivating over and for a couple of years now I have been saying 'that is mine I want to do this.' It is a grisly drama. But other than that things will skew towards comedy.
It's been 20 years since you joined the Groundlings, thinking back to that time, what made you decide to take that decision?
I had seen a show in the early 1990s at the Groundlings and it blew my mind. There were sketches and improv and I had never seen improv before - where you just take a suggestion and make up an entire scene, I was floored. I thought if I could ever do that I would feel like a superhero.
At the time, I was working in a hotel and I thought, 'This is not my life, I am meant for more than this.' It took four more years to take classes but it turned out to be a really good decision - it was hard, Groundlings don't mince words and don't suffer fools, but I wanted to stay until they kicked me out. Then I got into the company and that was major, that was a big achievement that I am still proud of today.
'Bridesmaids gave me confidence'
I always knew that I wanted to be a comedic actress, I had known that since I was a kid but it was time to declare a major and my parents were like, 'Oh we're not paying for that, showbusiness? You may as well be a prostitute!'
I had a job at the university that I kept for 12 years and I didn't walk away from that job until The Goldbergs - I did it all through Reno 9-1-1 and all through Rules of Engagement, Bridesmaids. And I am proud of that.
It took the pressure off of acting which I loved - when you rely on one thing to meet all your needs, you are going to start to hate that thing and I never wanted that to happen.
Bridesmaids in 2011 was a real turning point looking at your career - would you agree?
Yes - we did the table read in 2007 with Judd Apatow so it took a while to get that going. Then 2010 we had auditions and my grandpa had just died, and I had to go in and do this audition and I did not feel funny. Then I got another callback and another callback and then when I ended up getting it, 'Oh great I get to work with my funny friends, this is awesome!'
My manager told me, 'You don't want this,' and for a long time I had thought this guy wasn't steering me in the right direction, but who else will take me on? I didn't have the confidence. So when Bridesmaids did what she did, it gave me confidence to say, 'Let's not work together anymore, let's quit pretending this is a good idea.'
Bridesmaids gave me confidence to say, 'Universe put me in the path of someone who would help.'
Did you know at the time that this was the start of something big?
No. I just thought this is hilarious and I am having the best time. All I knew was I thought it was funny and it was six weeks of the most fun you can have with a bunch of girls.
But Bridesmaids is a weird one because they celebrate the anniversary every year, and I don't have anything new to say. Especially the last five years.
But it was very fun and thrills me to no end when I get pictures from people who in their own weddings with their own bridesmaids reenact the poster.
The Goldbergs will return for season 10
It's been a rollercoaster year for The Goldbergs but you just got signed for season 10. Can you talk about the impetus for coming back for another season.
It was easy to say yes to because we need to see this through to the end and give it a proper farewell. When I signed on to do this, people said, 'This is something that could go on for five years,' and then, 'This is going to go on for seven years.' How lucky are we? Now we are on season 10.
If I never get to do anything else, what I will say is we have - and I mean this for every crew and cast member and writers - given 150% and we have never taken this for granted. Every day we go to work is a joy and we got to work all through the pandemic - and believe me, for our mental health, we needed that.
Hearing how it helped some people get through the pandemic, something they could binge with their kids? I want to tie up loose ends and give this experience the send off it deserves.
Were the entire cast on board?
Oh yeah, we love each other and believe me - for a show to go on this long, that doesn't happen anymore. So we know how lucky we are and how this could potentially never happen again. T
The Goldbergs came about in the late 2010 era where half hour family sitcoms were booming, can you talk about the comedy landscape today?
I think in the past few years with streaming we've moved away from family sitcoms but there is a reason that they won't go away forever and that's because sometimes you just want to sit and watch something with your kids and you don't want to have to explain anything you weren't prepared to explain.
There is amazing stuff on streaming but it is not necessarily 'feel good television' or something you will watch more than once. I never find myself saying, 'It's a rainy day and I have a cold. Let's snuggle up and watch Chernobyl'. Brilliant show but it's not feel good.
Syndication will never go away and our show is something that can live for a long, long time. There is a reason people still watch the Golden Girls and I Love Lucy. Happy Days lasted seven years but has never been off the air, and we fall into that category.
Bridesmaids changed the trajectory of Wendi's life
What would 2002's Wendi say to see where you are today?
She would never believe it. I used to think I was too weird to be on a network show and at the time, what was on the air, I would have never been there. But as nutty as Beverly Goldberg, this is right up my alley.
You grew up in the 80s, how many of your experiences did you share with Adam and how many made it onto screens?
Actually - I gave them this juicy tidbit once and they didn't make an entire episode out of it but they did use it. I grew up in a religious household and my mom always wanted to make sure I wasn't doing anything bad with boyfriends.
She would often knock on car windows or blink the light on the porch. And one time I was watching TV in the living room with a boyfriend, and I went to the bathroom and I tripped over my sleeping mother who had fallen asleep in the hallway spying on me. She denies it to this day.
They did put that in an episode in season one, Beverly falls asleep listening to the event into Erica's room, but it could have been a whole episode.
'I want Beverly as an empty nester to start doing things like going to Atlantic City'
What can you share about season 10?
At this point I will have three kids in college, an empty nest if you will - but will it stay empty or will someone come home because they can't pay the rent?
We will have that creative meeting soon but I want Beverly as an empty nester to start doing things like going to Atlantic City to see Neil Diamond concerts. I want her to have a full makeover, for her to really start pressing for grandchildren, I want her to take all the bedrooms and turn them into other things. And will she inherit the furniture store?
We have also had some of the greatest guest stars and I want that pool to stay close, I want Richard Klein as often as we can bring him in, and the same with Judd Hirsch. And selfishly, I want Beverly back on roller skates. I don't know if the audience wants it but it is what I want.
The show has also had some incredible real life cameos - who would you love to see in season 10?
I am obsessed with having flashbacks of Beverly's mother as we have never seen her as she died early on in Beverly's life. In my mind, Bette Midler is Beverly's mother. Or Barbara Streisand. Bette and Barbara both worked with our beloved George Segal so it would also make sense.
Beverly is a character in her 50s, and you're 52 leading a network show. What are your thoughts on roles for women over 40?
I do think we're really seeing changes on TV. 100%. I have seen a shift on television. There are lots more roles for women over 40, so much so we need to stop saying there are no roles. I know a lot of people in that age bracket working and working more than they ever had.
Movies have not necessarily caught up, but movies are not where it is at right now unfortunately. The pandemic has been great for TV and not so much for movies.
'I used to think I was too weird to be on a network sho'
As well as acting you've got your podcast Generation Ripe, for teenagers over 40, which launched in the pandemic, but was the kernel of an idea always there?
For a couple years I had wanted to start a podcast and do what I could to change this conversation. It bored me and I know that I am not the only one that feels this way.
I am surrounded by people in their early 50s to 70s who have never stopped and will not stop and who refuse to put themselves on a shelf and say, 'I am sure no one else will want me so I will take myself out of the running.' No.
I know women who have had their first child in their mid-40s, who didn't get married until their mid-50s. I know a lot of people who are turning the cliches out.
And when I look around on TV I see that it is changing. It is not perfect, and it won't be, but my friend and I were always talking about, 'Oh let's go out and go to this concert, let's try to learn to skateboard,' and we're not the only ones who are older and feeling like we are not self conscious anymore.
Let's just go try it. I bought myself a skateboard for my 40th birthday.
We could live decades more so why would you just say, 'Oh no I am done making myself happy and doing anything fun'?
'You have never existed before so there is no road map for what you need'
What piece of advice would you give to someone younger who is worrying about those things?
I would say everything is going to happen that is best for you. You have never existed before so there is no road map for what you need.
The way it will happen for you is the right way. Maybe you haven't gotten married and had a kid yet, so what? It's 2022. Haven't we learned that forcing ourselves to achieve, achieve, achieve is not the best thing to do? Do you need to have it all at once? No. You don't. Take care of yourself and do what is best for you.
When I turned 40 I did it in a very quiet way, there was no big blowout party - that was for my 50th - but I felt something change: 'Now it's going to get good. Now I am going to enjoy it'.
In my 30s I just felt like I had to keep forcing myself to achieve things and it didn't feel great - I am not saying my 30s sucked, but it just didn't feel as good as my 40s. It is about to get so good for you. When you get older you say, 'no honey, what do you bring to my table? I know what I bring so you have to match this.'
Who would be your dream guest for the podcast?
Paulina Porizkova has a lot of interesting things to say about getting older. She has had some very interesting things that she had been doing, a lot of writing, and she is someone who hasn't stopped taking chances and exploring things.
And Carmen Dell'Orefice, a stunning goddess, who has, I believe, made and lost a couple of fortunes and she keeps going.
What else are you working on and where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I have a bunch of animated stuff I am doing - I am on a show called Big City Greens on Disney+ that is a kids show that is really cute, and I also signed on for a show called Grimsburg [with Jon Hamm].
The next five years I also hope to see some of my own projects launch, and whether I star in them or not, or if I am just casting funny friends, that is fine too.
Hopefully we will also see some of the movies I have made that are sitting on the tarmac come out in theaters. Paint is one movie, with Owen Wilson, and he is playing a Bob Ross-esque character, the rockstar of a PBS painting show in Vermont, the tiniest state in the union. It's so funny!
And Beverly Goldberg won't live forever but that is okay, she had a nice run. I will play her for as long as it makes sense.
The Goldbergs airs on ABC on 18 May at 8/7c.
Pictures by Leslie Alejandro; Styling by Gabriel Langenbrunner; Hair by Castillo; Make-up by Courtney Hart
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