'The Goldbergs': What It's Like Going Back to the '80s for 'Ferris Bueller'

THR goes on set and gets a totally tubular makeover
ABC/Ron Tom

ABC's The Goldbergs is taking on Ferris Bueller's Day Off, re-creating the costumes, scenes and, in Charlie Sheen's case, direct characters from the John Hughes classic as this season's big tribute episode.

The episode, fittingly titled "Barry Goldberg's Day Off," will follow Barry (Troy Gentile) taking a page from Ferris' playbook and faking being sick as he attempts to create his own Bueller-esque day off.

To celebrate the annual tribute episode (last season, Adam F. Goldberg's semi-autobiographical comedy paid homage to Goonies), The Hollywood Reporter went on set to get a totally '80s makeover (complete with insane wigs, costumes and lots of makeup!) to the inside scoop on what it's like to take a blast from the past and be an extra on The Goldbergs. Here's a diary from our day off with The Goldbergs.

6:55 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014: I arrive at the Beverly Hills Country Club a bit early and the first thing I see is black a car on a flatbed truck that looks strikingly similar the red 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder convertible featured in the movie. Whoa, they're going all out!

7 a.m.: I'm greeted by Richard GonzalezThe Goldbergs 2nd assistant director, who on this chilly morning is sporting a timely vintage Charlie Brown Christmas t-shirt. He leads me over to my trailer — wait, I have my own trailer?! — where the heat is a warm welcome for my sudden case of nerves about what kind of totally tubular wig they're going to give me to hide my extremely short hair.

7:05 a.m.: A copy of the script for the day's scenes are waiting for me in my trailer. (And I'm the only extra with a special trailer.) jaw hits the floor when I see my name on the breakdown. I'm playing "restaurant patron." This is the moment it all becomes real: It's Ferris' "Abe Froman" restaurant scene! I zip through the seven-page sides and get spoiled on how the episode ends (though I'm sworn to secrecy, it's classic Goldbergs.)

7:10 a.m.: Costume designer Keri Smith is my first visitor. She comes prepared with a range of equally insane outfits that could be a fit. They're a mix of pastels and patterns and look my mom's closet growing up.

7:15 a.m.: Keri, a total sweetheart, says she finds a lot of the clothing used on the show via rentals from the studio and other outlets including vintage stores like Jet Rag and Buffalo Exchange. Several of the outfits depicted on The Goldbergs have been used on screen in other projects. We decide that I'll be happier trading my Diesel jeans not for the turquoise blue skirt suit but rather for a pair of men's pleated pants, where even the pleats have pleats. The gray pants are swapped out for a super itchy pair of teal (and yes, pleated) slacks and paired with a pink shirt with a huge (and dated!) white collar and cuffs. I look like I raided Pops' (George Segal) closet. Keri then takes a page straight from Miami Vice (fittingly, one of my favorite '80s shows) and I'm given a blazer that not even Don Johnson would wear on laundry day. It doesn't have shoulder pads. Yet.

7:29 a.m.: The search for shoes continues. I swap my trademark slip-on Chucks for a pair of 30-year-old loafers. Thankfully, they're too big. Back to the drawing board! While my look is only partially completed — my tiny feet are proving to be a challenge for Keri, who hasn't even started adding the wickedly outlandish '80s accessories — I'm taken in for hair and makeup, bypassing the 50 other background players on hand this day to join me at the faux restaurant. Gentile and Segal are already here. While they're getting their finishing touches, I'm introduced to Kim Greene, the makeup artist department head who warns me that there is going to be lots of pink in my immediate future. 

7:42 a.m.: "It's all about the cheekbones," Kim explains as the brush strokes keep coming. She opts for pink eye shadow with blue eyeliner — neither of which I wore during my teen years in the '80s. I'm really making up for playing softball and basketball instead of hitting the mall for makeup counter makeovers as a youth. "Yes, I’m matching your eyeliner to your pants," Kim says. She explains that star Wendi McLendon-Covey (Beverly) and Hayley Orrantia (Erica) both regularly match their makeup to their attire. Shortly afterward, it's time for lipstick, and Kim breaks out a color called, no joke, "Debutante Pink." It's made by Bessame, a company that also produces period makeup for shows just like The Goldbergs. The last time I wore lipstick? Halloween … a decade ago.

7:57 a.m.: I meet the amazing Laurel Kelly, the so-called "Goddess of Hair." A row of big blonde wigs sits nearby her station — all of Beverly's '80s hair — and all of which she'll need this day as McLendon-Covey will also sport a "stunt wig." There may be a pool scene involved in the episode. But I'm not confirming anything. I explain I'm down for anything — including a mullet or Flock of Seagulls look. "If you end up doing Flock of Seagulls, you're getting more blush on!" Kim shouts. We debate trying to "fluff up" my hair, but it's way too short to re-create my horrid seventh-grade yearbook photo from 1986. (Whew.) Laurel instead pulls out a massive box of wig options.

8:05 a.m.: The first wig option is too close to "The Beverly" and won't work. It's a dark blonde and curly — or a version of what my hair would look like if I ever let it grow out. It's short for a reason, people!

8:07 a.m.: The second wig comes out of the box and all the sudden everyone starts singing Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know" as, sans huge bow, it looks so much like her look when she first broke out onto the music scene. This is a lot of hair!

8:10 a.m.:  The third (and final) choice comes out of the box and suddenly I look like Harpo Marx's long-lost lesbian sister. That settles it: The "Whitney" wig is the winner.

8:12 a.m.: Laurel starts fitting me with the wig. There are pins in my short hair for the first time since my lovely wife decided it would be fun to try and pulling my hair back. I know I'm in good hands: Laurel has been doing this since the '80s — and specializes on doing hair from pretty much any period. (She worked on Titanic!) "The challenge is staying true to the period using the tools I have today," she explains, noting '80s hair was super stylized, all about art and sculpture. There are examples of the period all over the hair and makeup trailer: George Clooney's epic mop top from Facts of LifeTom Hanks' outrageous curls, Eriq La Salle's Coming to America "Jheri curl" and early (yet still flattering) pics of Brad Pitt, among other celebs and their famously bad locks.

8:17 a.m.: Laurel continues styling my wig. She opts for — shocker! — a "business in the front, party in the back" approach that's oh-so-fitting for the era (and also not the first time I've had a mullet in my lifetime). I have bangs, and they definitely take some getting used to! Laurel breaks out the Scrunchie — my choices are pink or sea foam green!

8:20 a.m.: I think I'm done in hair and makeup — only Kim reminds me that there's something missing. "Everyone wore nail polish in the '80s!" She breaks out a color called "Pink Forever" that really is a half-step away from being completely fluorescent. (A holiday party later that night sadly revealed that it didn't respond to black light.)

8:28 a.m.: "Is that her?!" Keri exclaims when she arrives to get me from the hair and makeup trailer. I'm unrecognizable. Now back in my trailer, Keri puts the finishing touches on my attire for the day. She breaks out a slew of huge decorative pins and a Swatch watch that is far more bitchin' than the ones I owned as a kid. There are huge earrings all over the place and Keri reveals fans continue to send what she calls "their grandmothers' collections" to the show's production offices. Everyone from Keri to the hair and makeup teams continue to use the word "unrecognizable." I Facetime with my wife, who cannot stop laughing. Yep, I'm going on TV looking like this!

8:31 a.m.: Keri finds the perfect shoes: A pair of women's white boots — with fringe. They fit, and I tuck the fringe under my pleated slacks. Nope! "Honey, those have fringe, youhave to show that off!" Keri says with a laugh. My look is now completed and Keri takes a photo to send off to executive producers, including Goldberg, for approval.

8:45 a.m.: The producers weigh in with a two-word email: "Approved. Ha!" "And to think, we all thought we looked GREAT!" Keri says as she reviews my finished look before breaking out a pair of shoulder pads and tucking them under my blazer. No joke: She buys these things in bulk.

9:15 a.m.: Everything I'm wearing is itchy. I'm finishing up reading the sides for the episode. I'm totally keeping the sides and the sign on my trailer with my name on it — and the Swatch, if Keri will let me.

9:22 a.m.: I get the knock on the door: They're ready for me on set! I'm taken to the Beverly Hills Country Club's restaurant area by van. My look is eliciting quite a response from everyone around the set. (I admittedly know I look ridiculous!)

9:45 a.m.: While the scene is being blocked, I see Gentile and Sean Giambrone (young Adam) as well as Segal. Both Gentile and Giambrone are wearing matching leopard vests and Gentile is sporting Ferris' trademark leather coat. The on-screen brothers are also wearing matching white wingtip shoes. It's freaking adorable. And impressive.

9:48 a.m.: I meet Giambrone. He's so sweet and looks sharp! They're finishing a scene with Pops' Firebird that's a take on Ferris' valet scene (you know, before the valet guys take off for an epic joy ride). Co-executive producer Lew Schneider reflects on how universal many of The Goldbergs' period jokes are. We share a laugh about the show's recent Pop Rocks gag that, despite our growing up in different states, was a rumor at both of our schools. The show really is a family behind the scenes, too. His advice to breaking into Hollywood? Simple: "Work for the mother-in-law of a brilliant guy." It's a true story as he did work as a kid for Goldberg's mother-in-law.

9:50 a.m.: I meet guest star Jeff Witzke, a ridiculously nice guy whose costume isn't as outlandish as mine. He's playing a twist on this guy.

9:53 a.m.: While waiting to be placed on set, I spot a menorah in the background of the restaurant's entrance. It's a nice touch for a show that has been questioned about its apparent lack of religious references. I'm emailing with Goldberg to find out if he's going to come to set. He's stuck in the writers' room but changes his mind after I send him a pic of my like, totally awesome costume.

10:07 a.m.: Between takes, young Giambrone does homework on set with his mother and on-set teacher. They call his posse the "Seantourage." And they, too, are the nicest people in the world. The family splits time between L.A. and Chicago, where he attends school when production on the season is complete.

10:15 a.m.: My glam team gives my wig a touch-up as the rest of the restaurant background players — all fitted with period-appropriate costumes and makeup, though none as bonkers as mine — are all paced at tables. I'm hard to miss in this lot and seated right behind the maître'd's host stand! I'm freaking out.

10:20 a.m.: The production staff brings out faux martinis and wine for every table. Some have fake lobsters. I have fish and veggies. It does not look appetizing. From my vantage, I've got a great view of Giambrone, Gentile and Segal for their scene with my new friend Witzke. I meet Olga Diaz, my partner for lunch. She's been working as an extra since the end of September. We're told to make conversation — silently, of course, and to pick at our food. I realize that my pants match the restaurant's tablecloth.

10:30 a.m.: A few more takes of the scene — which involves Barry claiming to be the Sausage King of Chicago and another amusing identity for young Adam — and Olga suggests we pretend to discuss what we're doing for the holidays. It's very endearing — and helpful, seeing as how I haven't a clue how to do this!

10:31 a.m.: "You look like my mom's best friend!" showrunner Goldberg exclaims after arriving on set and seeing me in all my '80s glory. The exec producer sits down with us after a few takes — he's wearing a polo shirt with a mini Darth Vader on it, true to his Star Wars-loving younger on-screen counterpart. He shares tales of giving his childhood family tapes to producers — including cute scenes with his friend Emmy (played on the show by Stephanie Katherine Grant) — and how his fellow producers sift through them to find the perfect scenes to use for the show's famed end tag. The episode that aired the night before my visit featured Emmy reveling their childhood crushes. (And both guys the real Emmy mentioned emailed her after it aired!) Goldberg says he seriously debated doing a Breakfast Club episode instead of Ferris. "It was the best writing out of all his movies and we could have had the entire family trapped in a library," he says. "But Ferris linked perfectly with the characters in the family."

11:40 a.m.: After doing a handful of takes shooting toward Barry, young Adam and Pops, production clips and gets the same scene from Witzke's point of view. Olga tells me that I remind her of a food critic, jotting down notes between takes. We keep coming up with fake things to say — it's harder than it looks! Olga tells me about her daughter, an opera singer, and how she started doing extra work in a bid to stretch beyond her comfort zone. Considering I'm sitting here in a huge wig with tons of pink makeup on, I'm pretty much doing the same.

11:50 a.m.: Goldberg tells me he wants to use clips from the actual Ferris movie but hasn't yet heard from star Matthew Broderick yet. Producers also debated going out to some of the real actors from the movie, including the actual snooty maître'd but didn't want to take viewers out of the show. (Three weeks later, news would break that Charlie Sheen would reprise his role as the jailhouse loser who hits on Ferris' sister for a scene with Orrantia.)

Noon: That's a wrap for me! I head back to basecamp in a van with Segal to be brought back to my present-day look.

12:18 p.m.: The itchy clothes go first before I head to the hair and makeup trailer. McLendon-Covey is there getting her "Beverly" on. She has a good laugh when I show up looking half from 1980-something. We wind up chatting about Giambrone's great take on George Michael's "Faith" that aired the night before. "I really thought I had a chance with George Michael," she reveals of going to see the '80s icon in concert years ago. "I had a red bolero leather jacket on and thought he'd hone in on me in the crowd at Irvine Meadows, even though I was sitting wayyyy out on the lawn. It still remains the best concert I've ever been to."

12:45 p.m.: I stop by the lunch tent to say goodbye to everyone who has been so nice and accommodating. I spot Giambrone, who has no idea who I am. "That was YOU?!" he screams after I break him the news. He's floored. And still adorable.

1 p.m.: Except for my hot pink nail polish, I'm back to looking like myself again and in the car on the way back to the office. Fittingly, Bon Jovi's "You Give Love a Bad Name" comes on the stereo and I'm reminded that I just made a whole bunch of new memories from "1980-something."

The Goldbergs airs Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. on ABC. Check out a trailer for the episode, below.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit

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