It’s not difficult for AJ Michalka to think about the special teachers in her life while playing an educator in the new ABC comedy “Schooled.” So much of her own school years took place on the Sony Studios lot, where she’s filming this spinoff of “The Goldbergs.”
Michalka, 27, has appeared on television shows since she was 11, including “Passions,” “Oliver Beene,” “The Guardian,” “Birds of Prey,” “General Hospital” and “Six Feet Under.” A lot of her classroom work was done on set with a studio teacher.
She’s able to tap these “people locked away in my memory banks” to play Lainey Lewis, a recurring character on “The Goldbergs” who once dated Barry Goldberg, the middle child of the family.
The new series is set in the 1990s. Lewis had dreamed of being a rock star, but when her music career fails to launch, she becomes a music teacher at her alma mater, William Penn Academy, where she finds herself a colleague with Mr. Glascott (Tim Meadows), Coach Mellor (Bryan Callen) and super teacher Charlie Brown (Brett Dier).
“Schooled” debuted Wednesday in the time slot behind “The Goldbergs.”
“We are blessed in that we already have an established hit show leading us in,” Michalka said. “There also is a kind of pressure. We are like, ‘Oh, my gosh, is this going to work?’ But, this is Round 2 in a way, and we still have a lot of stories to tell for the Goldbergs.”
The new show gives the character more latitude. In “The Goldbergs,” Lainey was a student trying to figure out where she was going, but now she’s a career woman.
“We are seeing Lainey in a different light,” Michalka said. “We are seeing her in a world where she doesn’t necessarily have a lot of respect for these people, which is unfair, but kind of how it goes when you are her age. Now, she gets to see exactly what these guys have done and how they function with these kids.”
During the 1990s, Michalka was growing up in Torrence, Calif. She admits there are some things reflective of that decade that make her giggle — hair and makeup, for starters — but overall she feels at home in that era.
Meanwhile, the actress is also busy with voice work. Along with providing the vocals for Stevonnie on “Steven Universe,” Michalka is the voice of Catra on “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.”
“There are days when I am working on ‘Schooled’ and ‘Goldbergs’ and ‘She-Ra’ at the same time. It’s insane but I love it,” Michalka said. “I have been this way my whole life, working in two different mediums. So, for me, bring it on. The more the merrier.”
Voice work is a natural job choice for Michalka because of her love of music. Along with all the work she has done as an actor, Michalka is an accomplished musician who can play guitar, piano and percussion. She and her sister, Aly Michalka (“iZombie”), have released two albums. Platinum-selling recording artists, Aly & AJ also have contributed to the soundtracks for the films “Secretariat,” “The Game Plan,” “Grace Unplugged,” “Herbie: Fully Loaded” and “Ice Princess.”
The mix of work is ideal for Michalka. “I think the rush I get from music is more intense in some ways because there is a live aspect of being on stage,” she said. “You get that immediate feedback from the crowd. You get to hear them sing your lyrics. You meet them after the show.”