Wendi McLendon-Covey burst into the mainstream in 2011 with her role in Bridesmaids, and has since wowed audiences with her comedic talent (Modern Family, Blended). In ABC’s The Goldbergs, McLendon-Covey is Beverly Goldberg, a controlling, clingy mom with boundary issues–the show is inspired by the life of the show’s creator Adam Goldberg. McLendon-Covey is also set to star opposite Nicholas Cage’s in Army of One–the true life tale of Gary Faulkner, a Colorado contractor who decided to sail to landlocked Pakistan and hunt Osama bin Laden. McLendon-Covey says of Cage, “he’s phenomenal in it, totally unrecognizable. I play his girlfriend–the specific kind of lady that would fall for a guy like that.” In addition, she found time to host the comedy reality show, Repeat After Me–a hidden-camera series, inspired by The Ellen Degeneres Show. McLendon-Covey calls that experience, “Absolute joy” and says her favorite was, “the Michael Bolton bit–who knew he was that funny?” Renewed for a third season, The Goldbergs will return in the fall. McClendon-Covey says audiences can look forward to Beverly becoming clingier than ever. “The more the two older kids get ready to go to college, the more tightly I’m going to cling to little Adam,” she laughs.

Is it me, or do Murray and Beverly Goldberg remind you a bit of Tony and Carmela Soprano?

I totally get that. Yeah.

How weird is it working with creator Adam Goldberg and actually playing his mom? She’s admitted that you’re nicer than she was.

Yeah, I was really surprised to hear her say that, because she is a formidable woman and she doesn’t admit to a lot. But one thing I will say, is that I’m not a mother but I know that from my own parents, watching them, and boy, has this been a humbling experience. But all parents just kind of work from instinct. You act first and apologize later. I really think that’s what she did. But I love your comparison to Carmela Soprano a little bit because they’re similar in that they are always ‘done’. The nails are done, the makeup is done, the hair is coiffed. It’s like I’m putting on my armor for the day, and I’ve got all this going for me so now I’m impenetrable through this hairspray. Through my long nails you can’t get to me. I’ll scratch your eyes out.

Have you met Adam’s mom?

I have, but I didn’t meet her until about four months into production.

That must have been terrifying.

It was, it was. What made it terrifying was Adam kept coming by to ask me if it was okay if she visited the set. So after the fourth time he asked me, I thought, “what are you afraid of? I’m fine with meeting her but you keep asking me that.” That freaked me out. But she has a lot to say, and luckily she is happy with what I’m doing so I didn’t get a lecture. I didn’t get notes from her.

Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellen Pompeo on Repeat After Me
“I’d never hosted anything before, so I felt like it was the first day of school every time I had to do it, but it was a lot of fun,” McLendon-Covey says of ABC’s Repeat After Me, pictured with Ellen Pompeo.
Photograph by Kelsey McNeal

Did meeting her inform how you played Beverly?

A little bit because she really takes nothing from anyone. We were having a perfectly nice conversation, and then she kind of turned on me and said, “you almost stepped on my sunglasses just now.” It was like, “wait a minute, you know I didn’t mean to do that.” She’s vigilant and she’s protective of everything that’s hers. By the time I met her it was really too late to change anything. Everybody else was happy with the way she was being played so I didn’t change it. I mostly based the character on stories Adam would tell me.

The 80s hair and clothes are hilarious–do you all crack up laughing at each other on set?

Always! Especially me and my daughter Hayley (Orrantia) on the show, because we look like christmas trees. The boys’ clothes aren’t that outlandish, but ours are crazy. You know, we’re constantly arguing with wardrobe, like, “come on, do we have to wear that many bracelets? Do we have to wear giant beads?” The truth of the matter is, we did dress like that in the 80s. The shame. Such an embarrassing decade.

I think Madonna has a lot to answer for, personally.

She does. Madonna does, Cyndi Lauper certainly can’t be left out of that, and Murphy Brown. Damn you Murphy and your shoulder pads!

What’s a favorite episode or a scene for you from this past season–what would you want to be considered for nomination?

One scene I really, really loved, and I still get the feels when I watch it, is the very, very first episode when I’m in the car with my son and his little girlfriend, and I’ve decided to play the mixtape that I thought was for me, but it’s actually for her. We’re arguing over, “well wait a minute, Adam. Who is the inspiration?” It’s that song You’re the Inspiration. “I thought I was the Inspiration! Get out of the car, Dana!” I don’t know, that episode kills me because it’s so wrong and inappropriate. Like, “come on Beverly. You really thought your son made you a mixtape?”

What’s coming up in season 3?

I know they’re writing season three right now, but I really don’t know what’s going to happen. One thing I know that we will be playing with this year is the fact that college is imminent. It’s coming and Barry (Troy Gentile) has this girlfriend that’s way too hot for him. I think I will insinuate myself into that. The more serious they get, the more I’m going to be in their business, like, “let’s keep the door open. Gees, someone looks pregnant today!”

You’re an Emmy voter–who’s top of your list this year?

I’m a big fan of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt–Ellie Kemper and Tituss Burgess, he’s hysterical. I’m really digging Grace and Frankie–they should just get awards just for existing, you know what I mean? Just think of an Emmy and give it to them just for general awesomeness. Boardwalk Empire across the board. That show is so incredible. I’m sad that it’s over, but their final season was fantastic, oh, and Better Call Saul!