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Goldbergs: Hayley Orrantia on Erica’s two quests in season 4

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ABC

The Goldbergs may forever be stuck in a perpetual 1980-something purgatory, but there’s some forward momentum this year for at least one character.

Eldest sister Erica Goldberg, played by 22-year-old Hayley Orrantia, will head into the fourth season (premiering tonight on ABC) with a clear goal in mind: college.

“Technically, yes, Erica is a senior this year, and although it was a blurred line for a long time, this is Erica’s year and she’s getting very serious about focusing on going to a good school and getting the heck out of Jenkintown,” says Orrantia. “In a way, it’s her preparing to get ready for the next step in her life. And the thing she’s dedicated to is making senior year as easy as possible for her.”

While landing a safety school is tough enough, Erica also has to parse out some time to contend with the repercussions of her season-long decision last year to ignore the advances of friendly Geoff (Sam Lerner), part of the gang at William Penn (which, really, has low-key become the most underrated high school on television). Long story short: By the time she decided to return his feelings, Geoff had moved on to Evelyn (Allie Grant).

“That’s going to be the biggest storyline that Erica has this year,” Orrantia estimates. “Geoff’s together with Evie now, and Erica’s come to this realization that she has feelings for him, and the whole season I think is going to be her either trying to get over it or trying to break them up. It’s her whole world this senior year.”

One more complication: Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey) gets her teaching credential and becomes a substitute at the school, which would provide enough outrageousness on its own but compounds its own comic madness should she find herself involved in Erica’s quest to recapture her paramour.

“It for sure plays a role that mom’s hovering over me while I’m dealing with this breakup,” says Orrantia. “It’s such a Beverly thing to do. She just gets so involved in her children’s lives that she has to become this teacher at their school, but it’s going to create some hilarious storylines because there’s so much you can do with that. Beverly was already taking over the kids’ lives from home, and now she’s going to be around them 24/7… Lord only knows what’s going to happen there.”

The Goldbergs returns Sept. 21 at 8 p.m. on ABC.