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Mother May I

By Ruchel Louis Coetzee
Posted On Aug 12, 2016
Mother May I

We are head-over-heels in love with uproarious actress Wendi McLendon-Covey, star of The Goldbergs and Repeat After Me, who is keeping her head on straight as she goes supernova in Hollywood.

Few stars are as versatile, adaptable, or easy to love as Wendi McLendon- Covey. ABC audiences howl as she whispers naughty lines into the ears of Justin Bieber and Kristen Bell on the Ellen DeGeneres produced reality show Repeat After Me. Meanwhile, her portrayal of Beverly Goldberg on The Goldbergs—a quirky matriarch navigating life lessons, growth opportunities, and millions of chances to forgive her family’s foibles— is truly inspired. McLendon-Covey’s resume includes bright spots aplenty, and she has formidable comic chops to show for it all.

She’s an alumnus of the improv comedy troupe the Groundlings and was dubbed “queen of improv” by TV Guide for her  unscripted roles in Reno 911! and Lovespring International. She stole scenes in films like
Bridesmaids, Think Like a Man Too, and A Merry Friggin’ Christmas with Robin Williams, and has the comedy The  Breakup Girl heading for theaters later this year. Here, we chat with the feisty star, who reveals what it’s like to be in full  Hollywood bloom, and how fun it is to play a sitcom “mama bear” on ABC.

 Wendi, where does all of this wonderful wit come from?

It’s just something I try to intuit. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve tried to study funny people.

 Who would you say is the funniest person in your life, off-camera?

Ellie Kemper [the star of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt], because she’s so subtle. She doesn’t go for the immediate joke.  As much as she plays sweet, there’s something evil bubbling under the surface, as if her characters are holding onto  some resentment. I love that.

 In your role on The Goldbergs, family is your universe. What stands out for you in Mrs. Goldberg’s  relationship with her children?

She has always supported her children in every dumb thing they’ve wanted to do. Using six bottles of ketchup to film a horror scene with a stuffed animal? Go for it, because that’s going to be the best movie ever made.

You describe Mrs. Goldberg as very honest. How key is it to be honest with ourselves?

If you can’t be honest with yourself, you’ll never improve or grow. You’ll become comfortable with unhealthy habits, bad situations, and toxic people. There’s nothing to be gained from that.

What’s your take on hugs and affection?

It’s so important! Face-time is important… not dragging your kid off to church to look silently in one direction and listen to a pastor for two hours. There’s value in that, but face-time with kids—being honest, crying, and hugging it out—is more important. Conflict resolution? You have to teach it.

What aspects of Beverly’s relationship with husband, Murray, could you use as a takeaway for your own relationship?

All Beverly has ever wanted was to be a mom. She wanted a family and to be really good at that job. She’s also devoted to Murray—who is not an easy person to live with, but then again, neither is she. They’ve figured out how to play on the same team. She and Murray always put up a united front for their kids, which I think is important. Otherwise it’s really confusing for the kids to pick sides. With my man, I just love him to pieces. He’s ready to bolt any day now, because I’m never home! But we live in Hollywood, and I think that helps. I know I’m a pain in the butt, but at least I keep him entertained.

What do you think when a woman emasculates her man in front of others?

You should never criticize your spouse in front of others. Do that behind closed doors, and don’t drag stupid, petty business out in front of a dinner party. People think they’re being funny, and it’s not funny. Subliminally, I feel they do that to kind of set the table for getting out of the marriage.

What’s behind the success of The Goldbergs?

No one pretends to be perfect on the show. Everyone’s getting it wrong because we’re human beings. The kids are trying to get the better of the parents, as teenagers do, and the parents rarely parent properly, but it’s all from a place of love. Many people are afraid they’re going to make mistakes with their kids.Well, count on it, because you are going to. That doesn’t mean it should stop you in your tracks, make you quit, and go to a therapist. Your kid will resent you for something, just like you resent your parents for something. It’s just part of life. It doesn’t mean you can’t go in and say, “Look, I screwed up, and I’m going to screw up again. But I love you.”