Sean Giambrone is only 19 — and a young-looking 19 at that — but he carries within him the nostalgic memories of a man in his 40s.
That man is Adam F. Goldberg, whose Jenkintown boyhood is still being mined for material as ABC's 1980-something-set sitcom The Goldbergs returns for its sixth season Wednesday, Sept. 26, with an episode that includes both a tribute to the 1984 John Hughes film Sixteen Candles and a re-creation in Redondo Beach, Calif., of Atlantic City the way Goldberg, the show's creator, remembers it from family vacations.
"It's weird. I get super-nostalgic about certain songs that come on because … some big personal moments happen on the show, and so hearing a song can bring me back to those. So now I'm nostalgic in this hybrid now [and] '80s time as well," Giambrone said in an interview during an ABC event in Beverly Hills last month. "It's bizarre."
It doesn't hurt that he's grown up in an era in which the pop culture of the past is never more than a click or two away. "Since technology allows you to see music of all time, I generally gravitate toward [music from the] '70s – '50s, '60s, '70s, and '80s," he said.
Still, it's telling that when the Giambrone, who grew up in Michigan, was asked what he saw on a visit to Philadelphia last year, he replied: "I went into a Wawa."
And, OK, Giambrone, a history buff, also visited Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and Elfreth's Alley, but the experience that clearly stuck was the stop in Jenkintown, where, beyond the iconic convenience store, he got to see such Goldbergs landmarks as the Hiway Theater and Kremp Florist, which is owned by the real Goldberg family's former neighbors. "It was cool to see their operation," he said.
"Seems like a really nice area," Giambrone said of his character's hometown. "I would've liked to have had lunch there or something, but it was just a quick scurry about."
Working on The Goldbergs, whose stories are often drawn from incidents in the real Adam's life that were immortalized in his home movies, "it becomes your favorite stories are his childhood," Giambrone said.
"Your celebrities are like his mom [portrayed on the show by Wendi McLendon-Covey]. When she walks on set, that's a celebrity," he said. "You just hear about them so much, you know them. It's a similar feeling to seeing someone you see on TV and thinking that you know them."
Plus, "hearing any information about his childhood just gets me super-excited."
Super-excited is probably the quality that most links the actor and the man whose adolescence he's portraying. What got Giambrone hired, Goldberg told me last year, was that "in his audition he talked about his love of video games. … No other kid who auditioned gave any kind of normal story."
They're joined, too, by an early interest in filmmaking, Giambrone having begun at 7 or 8 making action movies at home with his older brother.
"Making like an adult production would just be super-cool," said the actor, who's trying to take advantage of time spent on the show's Culver City, Calif., set.
"I've been shadowing editors and I've been shadowing a couple of other people on the set, but I think because I really want to shadow a director I've been kind of procrastinating about asking about it," he said. "The group of directors that they bring in are just wonderful. And they're all super-sweet people, so I'd love to learn how to be as cool a person as they are and create the product they're able to."