Hayley Orrantia is one of the stars of ABC’s hit show The Goldbergs. Orrantia, who grew up outside of Dallas in Highland Village, TX, is also a singer-songwriter who expects her first EP to be released this year.
The show is about a family in the 80s as told from the perspective of their geeky 11-year-old son Adam. Orrantia plays Erica, the oldest of the three siblings. Erica is smart, rebellious and fabulously 80s, from the side ponytail to the turquoise jacket with tassels.
Orrantia’s first taste of fame was as a contestant on X Factor in 2011 as part of a girl group called Lakoda Rayne. They placed 9th and were the last group in the competition.
Orrantia, 20, spoke with us about landing her first big acting gig, her burgeoning music career, and how she pulls off being an 80s kid despite being born in 1994.
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SB: So tell me how you got into acting and how you landed this job?
HO: I actually am a singer first and foremost and I got into acting through music. Record labels told me that the only way I could sign with anyone was if I had a platform and a following already. So I started taking acting classes and to be honest I hated it at first. I didn’t get it at all. But then I kept going on more auditions, starting in Dallas. Eventually I got an agent in LA, and four years later I got the call back and the screen test for the show that would become The Goldbergs. It took me four years to find the role that matched me, but I am very happy with how it turned out.
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SB: TV shows are notoriously fickle and could be canceled at any time. When did you know this show was going to be a success?
HO: It is normal for you to book a pilot and the pilot won’t get picked up. Or even if it does get picked up then the show could be cancelled in the middle of the season or after the first season. So you are always wondering how you are doing as a show and if you can keep going.
But so many people have told me how much they connect with the show from growing up in the 80s because of how nostalgic it is. So many people from all different age ranges connect with it and find it funny that I was like “Ok, we have a really good shot at this being a show that lasts.”
But the time that I really knew that we had nothing to worry about was when the head of ABC said in some news articles that he thought The Goldbergs would go at least five years. So that gave me some confidence.
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SB: How did you, as a girl born in the 90s and raised in the 2000s prepare for a role as a teenager in the 80s?
HO: It was interesting because I didn’t really know how to prepare for it. My parents lived through the 80s so I asked them a lot of questions. And it just so happened that when we were filming the pilot of the show that the TV show I Love the 80s was on. It was a compilation of a bunch of random things from the 80s so I watched some of that. I didn’t do a ton of research because they provided so much for me on the show, from the clothing, to the way they write in different toys and games and movies that were popular at the time into the script. Some of it I understand and some of it I don’t get at all. Being surrounded on set with things that are completely 80s makes it very easy to get in character and feel like you’re actually there.
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SB: Tell us about your music career. When can we expect to hear some of your work?
HO: I’ve been singing since I was about 11 and putting music out since I was about 14. I haven’t had the equipment available to me to put out covers on YouTube the way I would like to. So I kind of stopped focusing on music for a while in order to focus on the steps I needed to take to get an acting job and hopefully a TV show and have it be successful and then go back and work on music. After Season 1 was finished I spent all last summer in Nashville working on an EP. It’s completely my own, all my songs and my words and everything that I built up the last four years. It’s been a big journey trying to figure out what sound I wanted. When I started out I did R&B and Pop but now I’m doing Pop-Country. I feel like I finally figured out where I’m supposed to be. Hopefully in the next few months it should be out!
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SB: What is more difficult for you: music or acting?
HO: Acting for me, because I’m having to play a character. And in this show specifically I’m playing someone based on a real character, so there’s even more pressure with that. You’re trying to please the director as well as the creator of the show as well as the fans of the show who are looking to you to continue the storyline the way they want to see it. There’s a lot of pressure to do something that I never grew up doing and don’t feel comfortable doing.
With music, these are all my words and my emotions so it’s easy for me to portray that. I’ve been lucky to have producers and writers who are very supportive of what I’m doing and what I have to say. So I haven’t had to put up much of a fight for that side of it.