Through six seasons of ABC’s The Goldbergs, Wendi McLendon-Covey has garnered acclaim for her turn as Beverly, one of the most memorable matriarchs on network television. Recently, the actress teamed up with Debra Eisenstadt on Imaginary Order, to present a rather different portrait of the suburban mom. Starring opposite Max Burkholder in the Sundance drama, the actress plays Cathy, a wife and mother whose boredom, complicated home life and obsessive-compulsive tendencies lead to her unraveling.
Finding something “funny and fresh” in Eisenstadt’s portrait of suburban angst, McLendon-Covey was initially asked to play a supporting role in the film, before assuming lead position. Given that opportunity, she was daunted, hoping simply to rise to the occasion. “I loved the script so much,” the actress told Deadline recently. “It was like, ‘I don’t want to take a dump on this script. It’s so good.’”
Stopping by Deadline’s Sundance Studio with the actress, Burkholder discussed the appeal in playing a “douche” who does “very awful things,” leading to the descent of one woman under the influence. Eisenstadt, meanwhile, explained the project’s origins. Moving from New York to LA over eight years ago, the writer/director felt then both total isolation and “this…suburban fear,” which she felt on behalf of her three children and herself.
Mounting Imaginary Order presented no shortage of challenges. In Cathy, Eisenstadt created a character that “really scared a lot of actresses”—and when the project finally came together, there were 200 scenes to get through, in only 15 shooting days.
For the actors, it was the beautiful, comedic discomfort at the heart of this film—Eisenstadt’s thoughtfulness in what she had to say, and how she said it—that made the endeavor worthwhile. “Temptations, they’re all around us, and when you’re not happy with the life you’re living, you tend to get tempted to go down this rabbit hole or that rabbit hole. Trying to overcorrect that is where it gets really good and juicy and uncomfortable,” McLendon-Covey said, reflecting on the film’s theme. “Being seduced by an entire family because you just want anything other than what you have…I mean, who wouldn’t have fun playing that?”
To take a look at our conversation with the director and stars of Imaginary Order, click above.