SCHOOLED: AJ Michalka on Bringing Lainey to 1990-Something - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

SCHOOLED: AJ Michalka on Bringing Lainey to 1990-Something

January 9, 2019 by  

SCHOOLED: AJ Michalka

SCHOOLED – “Be Like Mike” – It’s 1990-something, and since Lainey still hasn’t achieved rock ‘n’ roll greatness, she returns to William Penn Academy as the new music teacher. Lainey has a hard time adjusting to being an authority figure, but she realizes she might not be so bad at it when she discovers a kindred spirit in Principal Glascott’s niece, Felicia. Meanwhile, Coach Mellor struggles with Michael Jordan’s influence on modern-day basketball on the series premiere of “Schooled,” airing WEDNESDAY, JAN. 9 (8:31-9:00 p.m. EST), on The ABC Television Network. (ABC/Eric McCandless)
AJ MICHALKA, TIM MEADOWS

On THE GOLDBERGS, Lainey (AJ Michalka) is prepping for her perfect wedding in 1980-something. Flash forward a decade (give or take), and Lainey is back as a new teacher at William Penn Academy in SCHOOLED.

The 1990-somethings GOLDBERGS spinoff had a long path to making it to television. The series’ original pilot (sans Lainey) was passed over for the 2017-2018 season. ABC aired the episode as a backdoor pilot episode of THE GOLDBERGS in January of 2018; the network officially picked it up—and added Lainey.

But teaching was never in Lainey’s master plans…in fact, she’s not originally thrilled to be back home. So how will she adjust to her new path? SCHOOLED star Michalka dishes on playing Lainey in a new decade, returning to William Penn, and those ‘90s pop culture references…

You’re no stranger to playing Lainey, but how has it been playing a 1990-something version of her?
It’s crazy, because it’s something I’m so familiar with, but something in my brain, as an actor, I had to switch up in order to differentiate the two eras. And [it’s] just the way someone would act seven, eight, nine years later. She’s an adult now, and faking it until she makes it. She definitely, between GOLDBERGS and seeing herself in SCHOOLED, loses it a bit. [Lainey] tries to make it as a musician, tries to make it in L.A., and that goes haywire. She eventually humbles herself—in her mind—by getting a job at William Penn. And then she realizes this is what I love and I’m here to stay; this isn’t a temporary fix, it’s something I’m going to be doing long-term. That’s a really cool discovery.

I’m less concerned about an era shift and more concerned about how Lainey is different. You are who you are, and that doesn’t change that much. But seeing her guide and mentor these children, there is a little bit of a difference in how she acts now. There are little things I do as an actor that helps me shift her into this different world—just down to the way she stands, little things like that.

It’s been fun to go between the two [shows], because I’m transitioning out of THE GOLDBERGS. I’ve been able to work on both for the past few months, which has been fun. But it also, as an actor, gets kind of confusing if I’m on both shows on the same day. But it’s also a fun challenge!

It’s actually impressive how much you’ve been on THE GOLDBERGS leading up to SCHOOLED’s debut. What was that long goodbye like?
It’s definitely been emotional. This sounds cheesy, but I made a video blog in my trailer when I was on my last—I don’t want to call it last—day of GOLDBERGS. It was a video of me explaining it was the end of an era for Lainey [going] to this new beginning. It was this cheesy, emotional video [that I haven’t decided] if I put it out or keep it for myself.

It is weird weaning off the show and starting another, because even though I love these [new] people, I’ve connected to a new cast, and I know them all well, my best friends are all still on the other show. It’s getting used to something else and shifting your chemistry with these other people. I’m no longer working as much with Hayley [Orrantia (Erica)] or Troy [Gentile (Barry)]; that’s my hub of friendship.

Now I’m working with Bryan Callen (Coach Mellor), which is a totally different relationship, but still great. I’m trying to mentally, on a personal level, shift being on set. But I love it. The show hasn’t felt new; it’s felt like a continuation. Our base camps are next door and our sets are next door. It’s almost like it’s two shows in one.

Where does Lainey stand romantically in SCHOOLED? When we left her on THE GOLDBERGS, she was engaged to Barry…
She is definitely a bit lost, romantically, when we meet her in SCHOOLED. Which is sad. But I do think that story will pop back up in her life, I’m guessing. But right now, she is single. And there is someone who works at the school who ends up becoming a bit of her interest of hers, and vice versa. We’ll see that play out in season 1. I think right now she is so confused and lost at figuring out who she is, her brain isn’t fully in the world of romancing yet. But we’re definitely going to see that come into play this season, which will be fun.

Which brings us to Brett Dier’s CB. What is Lainey’s relationship with him like?
He’s been working there a lot longer. She’s new to the pack, even though she went to that school. At first, the character her for her is very much an eye-roll: He’s the favorite teacher, he’s a total pushover, and I’m the one who is going to generate the most attention from these kids. And I was the cool kid going here and he’d be the nerd. And then realizing he probably had the best sense of self when it comes to these kids and relating to them.

She ends up looking up to him, and I think that’s appealing to her. I think she also sees a goofiness in him that is so different from Barry, but in some ways, something that intrigues Lainey, because she clearly likes that in a guy. That intrigues her, especially in one episode, but then it calms down. I don’t think in this season we’ll see it too heavily, because it’s mostly about the teachers and their dynamic with each other and these students. There’s not a ton of romance yet, but we will see it play out.

She has a history with a number of the teachers, but with a very different power dynamic. How is she adjusting to being their colleague?
I think she starts with less respect than she should. Glascott, for her, was always someone who was always a great guidance counselor, as kooky as he may be, he was always really sweet. Lainey knows that, but she didn’t always respect that.

I think Mellor was probably her favorite teacher growing up. We didn’t see a lot of them on THE GOLDBERGS, but he’s always been a little rogue. I think for Lainey , that’s always been appealing for her, so they end up forming a great bond. We’ll see her with Miss Cinoman, we’ll see her with Stephen Tobolowsky’s character who is no longer our principal, but is kind of the head administrator of our school. And we’ll see her with some other new characters. Usually, she comes in with less respect than is deserved. Lainey figures out, wow, these guys are something I should strive toward.

How has she been adjusting to the teaching itself? Is she having a difficult time realizing she’s guiding these kids?
I think so. As much as she’s trying to act like the [faculty] are her peers, I think she feels more peer-like with the students. There are a couple of students in particular stick out because they remind her of herself. There are some really sweet moments to play with there. But she’s kind of winging it; she does feel like a kid. And, by the way, who doesn’t?! I’m 27, but a lot of times I feel like I’m faking my way through adult life. And who can’t relate to that?

One of the fun elements of THE GOLDBERGS is the pop culture references—but they’re often filtered through Adam’s love of films, etc. How is SCHOOLED handling the era?
We’re for sure missing the toys and [films] and Adam’s bedroom in this show, which I think is so much of THE GOLDBERGS. But the references come from the students and the faculty. Everything takes place in William Penn. We throw it back to a really cool movie [SHE’S ALL THAT] in episode 2. We throw it back to a really cool movie in episode 10; one of my personal favorites. And we also reference a lot of great ‘90s music. Pop culture references are definitely going to be a huge part of these stories.

You actually lived through a portion of the ‘90s. How does that personal relationship to some of these references impact your energy on set?
I was talking about this with Hayley the other day: the ‘90s were our jam. It’s the stuff we’re more familiar with. So the excitement towards the scripts is at a different level because the hair, the makeup, the wardrobe, growing up with these movies, this stuff is so near and dear to me. Even though I was young in the ‘90s, I lived it. Whereas ‘80s I did not. I feel a little more fangirl like with some of these episodes, which is fun.

SCHOOLED, Series Premiere, Wednesday, January 9, 8:30/7:30c, ABC

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