Wendi McLendon-Covey on 'The Goldbergs' and Losing George Segal While Filming (Exclusive)
By Mona Khalifeh
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Wendi McLendon-Covey is talking all things The Goldbergs. McClendon-Covey spoke with ET about season 9 of the ABC sitcom and the tragic death of George Segal, who played Albert "Pops" Solomon, the beloved grandfather of the Goldbergs' household, for eight seasons before his death in March. The cast was wrapping up season 8 when they received the tragic and unexpected news of Segal's death.
"All I can say about that is the news was devastating. We did not find out, he passed two days before we stopped filming season 8. So, you know, there were quite a few fans who were saying, 'I can't believe you didn't do a tribute to George Segal yet.' It's all been in the can. We finished filming and this was not the thing that we thought was gonna happen at the end of the season," McLendon-Covey shared.
Season 9 kicks off with a tribute to Pops along with a bit of a movie tribute the show always does to kick off each season.
"Our first episode this season is such a tribute to George Segal and the character of Pops, and yet it is also a movie tribute, because that's what we do our first episode of every season," she added. "So this is an homage to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and we go on our own excellent adventure, trying to figure out where Pops would have wanted his ashes spread. So it manages to be funny and heartwarming and tear-jerking, but it's a tribute to the character of Pops, what a beautiful man George Segal was. And we will never stop mentioning him."
The 51-year-old actress said Segal had gotten through so much in 2020 that his death "just didn't seem real."
"It just didn't seem real because he just kept fighting through 2020, and 2020 was not fun for anybody, but he just kept overcoming things," she explained. "There were huge fires near his house, he got through that. One of his caregivers got COVID, he got through that. His wife was very ill and he nursed her through that. We would fly him out and just film all his scenes really quickly in a couple of days so we wouldn't have to stay in town and go back to Santa Rosa where he lived. And it was like, 'Oh, he had a heart thing, he had to go in for open heart surgery,' but the next day he was gone. It just didn't seem possible."
She continued, "Luckily we were filming a scene where we were all together. It was a scene where Hailey and Jeff get engaged. And we were all at the beach, and if we had to find out like that, it's good that we were all together and at the beach where we could just sort of, like, breathe and take it all in. But what a loss."
McLendon-Covey told ET that some of her favorite memories with Segal were the Old Hollywood stories he'd rattle off between takes, like the time he worked with Elizabeth Taylor on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
"I just remember between takes he was so funny, and he had so many good stories. And sometimes he would name names," he shared.
Long before Segal's death, The Goldbergs crew began working on a documentary about Segal and his life, which McLendon-Covey says is resuming production next month.
"I will tell you that a lot of our crew members are working on a documentary about George Segal and his life, and they have been working on it for several years on and off," she revealed. "So that's going back into production, obviously with some adjustments. But they got a lot of good footage of him talking about his career highs and lows, things like that. I'm excited to be a part of that when that resumes next month."
Between the loss of Pops and the Goldberg kids growing up, getting married and going off to school, McLendon-Covey's character, Bev, has a lot on her plate. But working with this cast that has really become family is still one of the "biggest thrills" of the comedienne's life.
"I can't believe it. I mean, it's one of the biggest thrills of my life that I've gotten to even work with all these people. And I just live in gratitude every day that I've had a job for this long," McLendon-Covey gushed.
Season 9 of The Goldbergs premieres Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC.
Tune in to tonight's episode of Entertainment Tonight for more of ET's interview with McLendon-Covey.