CULVER CITY, Calif. — It’s not just actresses who sometimes worry about being asked to show too much skin.
Jeff Garlin, who’s periodically pants-free as Murray, the father on ABC’s The Goldbergs, has his limits, too. Although that may partly be because stripping down to underwear in a TV living room isn’t as easy as it might be in real life.
The sitcom’s creator, Adam F. Goldberg, based the show on his 1980s childhood in Jenkintown and included his late father’s habit of removing his trousers when he got home from work for maximum comfort.
Last week, Garlin regaled a group of reporters visiting the show’s Sony Pictures set with stories about just how uncomfortable partial nudity can get.
In the first episode, he recalled, he was wearing “regular tighty whities. The censors had a field day with that, OK? … Then they added another level, and so it was two levels of underwear — censors did not like that. Then they added like this foam … pad that’s in there, and now sometimes they see ‘movement and shadows.’ ”
Garlin knows he’ll be pants-free in a particular scene if he finds the special underwear waiting in his trailer.
Sometimes, he balks. “It’s like being an actress who has to be in, like, her underwear, or topless — is it important to the story? And there have been times when it’s just me and my underwear, and I say, ‘No, no.’ Because it’s just — it’s a gag. I like when I come home, pants are off, go to the chair. And there’s a reason for it most times … [but] I’d say a half-dozen times” over the years, “I shut it down. And everybody’s like cool with it” because they don’t really need it in the scene, he said.
“I don’t want it to be a gag. I want it to be, oh, the dad takes off his pants. And look at him doing it, for a reason. That’s all.”
Garlin gestured to Hayley Orrantia, who plays Murray’s daughter, Erica. The actress, whose character will be leaving for college in the show, was 19 when The Goldbergs began. It returns for its fifth season Sept. 27.
“Nineteen-year-old girl hanging with a middle-aged man all day — I’m standing there talking to her in little underwear!” Garlin said.
“There was only one scene where I was uncomfortable,” Orrantia told him. It was just the two of them, and he entered the kitchen, and “while we were having a conversation, I watch you just take [his pants] off in front of me. And that was just a little weird.”
Pants or not, Garlin’s bound to get more exposure this fall, as HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm returns Oct. 1 after a six-year absence. Garlin plays creator and star Larry David’s best friend. “I made a mistake this past year, and that is that I filmed both at the same time,” and that “took away a lot of the joy,” Garlin said.
“How many days was I just tired and couldn’t move?” he asked Orrantia. “If I wasn’t here, I was there. And I’m also a producer on that show, so even [when] I’m not acting on that show, I’ve got to be there. So I told Larry … I can’t do that again. If we do another season, I just can’t. I have to shoot it separate.”
Not being able to return to Curb would have been a “deal-breaker” with The Goldbergs, he said. “I can’t do the show if it means I can never do Curb again. Cool thing is, even the people who negotiate behind the scenes, they’re fans of the show and so these lawyers didn’t want to be the ones who, like, ‘I ended Curb.’ I would tell on them.”