'Goldbergs' Creator & Queen Superfan Wanted to Bring 'All That Love' Into 'Bohemian Rhapsody'-Inspired Episode

ABC/Ron Tom
Hayley Orrantia in The Goldbergs.

"I was an obsessive growing up after I discovered them at 10 at summer camp," Adam F. Goldberg tells Billboard of his Queen fandom.

You think you're the biggest Queen fan? Not even. Adam F. Goldberg has you beat, like, to the max. The Freddie Mercury super-duper fan loves the "We Will Rock You" band so much, he dedicated all of Wednesday night's episode of his show, The Goldbergs, to the band's signature opus, "Bohemian Rhapsody."

But because it's The Goldbergs, the title of the episode is "Bohemian Rap City" (which he'll explain a bit later). "Queen is my all-time favorite band in history," Goldberg, 42, tells Billboard. "I was an obsessive growing up after I discovered them at 10 at summer camp. The oldest bunk did a lip-sync night, and that’s when I discovered ['Bohemian Rhapsody'], and from 12, I started collecting posters, T-shirts, rare UK imports and CDs, and I've collected it my entire life and memorized every single song."

That love continued into college, where the walls of his dorm room were papered with Queen posters and he made a point of seeing every post-Mercury version of the group. To this day, in fact, his biggest regret in life is not forcing his parents to let him go to the April 1992 Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness at Wembley Stadium in London that marked the final time bassist John Deacon played a full show with the band. 

So when the Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, recently premiered in Los Angeles, he was totally going to take off work to attend in the hopes of meeting his heroes, except he's currently running two shows. Which is why he did the next best thing: a tribute episode.

"Erica [played by Hayley Orrantia] has dropped out of college to pursue her music dreams, and when you're in a band, there's always friction between band members, people vying to be the lead vocalist," he says of the central drama in the episode he timed to the release of the movie. "The episode is centered around Star Search, which was like an American Idol of the 1980s, where if you got on there, it was an easier way to get fame." In keeping with the show's obsession with '80s pop culture, Erica decides she will audition for the series by singing "Bohemian Rhapsody," which, if you know anything about the nearly six-minute, multi-part operatic tour de force, is, like, wicked hard to sing, resulting in the fracturing of her band.

"I wanted to bring all that love [of Queen] into an episode, and we do this amazing thing that is my favorite thing we ever shot," he says of the biographical show that ends almost every episode with some real-life home movies shot by Goldberg of the incidents that inspired that night's adventures. The pivotal scene involves Erica's MC-wannabe brother Barry (aka Big Tasty) mishearing "Rhapsody" as "Rap City," leading to one of his typically enthusiastic, beat-deficient original rhymes paying homage to the Run-DMC/Aerosmith rock-rap hit "Walk This Way" while fronting their band, The Dropouts.

Needless to say, Barry's rap version of "Rhapsody" is grody to the max, but, you know, in adorably dopey Barry fashion. The bit required Goldberg's team to reach out to Queen to make sure they were OK with a parody of their most famous song, and given how precious they are about keeping the group -- and Mercury's -- legacy intact, he was justifiably worried they might not let it go.

"They were totally onboard with him singing about being in Rap City," Goldberg says, his voice brimming with a joy borne of lifelong superfandom. "It was so great that they had such a sense of humor about it." And though it's one of his lifelong dreams to actually speak to a member of Queen, Goldberg is actually kind of relieved he didn't have to do that in order to get their thumb's-up. "There was this moment when I was in my 30s when I went to one of their shows -- as a kid, I would watch people singing along to The Beatles and then passing out and losing control at one of their shows -- and I was in the front row and [guitarist] Brian May was shredding right in front of me and I turned into one of those people and almost passed out," he says.

The Goldbergs airs on ABC at 8 p.m.


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