The Goldbergs welcomed back a fan-favorite character tonight in season 10, episode 14, called “Two-Timing Goldbergs.” Lainey Lewis, played by actress and singer AJ Michalka, returned to her hometown to catch up with best friend Erica (Hayley Orrantia). Naturally, she also sparked accidental controversy when Erica and her husband Geoff mistakenly believed Lainey to be getting back together with Barry (Troy Gentile) behind everyone’s backs.

But as the dust settled, The Goldbergs were left with one important truth: Lainey Lewis is always welcome back in Jenkintown. While her short-lived spinoff series Schooled revealed a new side to the would-be rockstar, allowing her to find her calling as a music teacher, there is still plenty of story left to explore for Lainey in the main show. Fans especially want to know the outcome of Lainey and Barry’s romance, which has been on hold given her extended absences and his current relationship with Joanne.

Related: The Goldbergs Season 10 Almost Forgot A Major Adam Storyline

Screen Rant spoke to Michalka about how it felt to return to The Goldbergs once more, how Lainey feels about her friendship with Erica and the potential of a future with Barry, and her own perfect balance between acting and music.

AJ Michalka Talks The Goldbergs & Schooled

lainey & cast in the goldbergs 1014

Screen Rant: The last time we saw you on The Goldbergs was almost exactly a year ago. What has been happening in Lainey’s life since then? We heard she just went through a breakup, but what else do you know or think about her life in LA?

AJ Michalka: I think Lainey is living her life. I don’t think she hit the rock star dream that she always pursued, but I think she’s got a solid head on her shoulders. I feel like she’s maybe got a great job, and she is taking advantage of the fact that she is an adult and not living under the Lewis household anymore.

It’s a little bit tricky, because Schooled was representing such a part of her life outside of The Goldbergs. Now that that’s no longer a thing, I don’t really know what Lainey would be going through at this point. It hasn’t really been written for her so, for me, it’s more that Lainey has been living life in California and gets an opportunity to come back to Jenkintown and reunite with Erica. She meets her new baby, hangs out with Jeff, and causes a little ruckus — which is kind of what she’s known for.

Does it feel like a high school reunion, if you will, every time you go back to set and see the cast?

AJ Michalka: It really does. I love these people, and we’re all really close. When they’re shooting the show and everyone’s on it consistently, there’s not a ton of time to hang out because they have very specific windows for their hiatus and weekends and time away. Usually when they’re filming, I might be on tour, so I don’t get to always connect with them.

Sometimes when I see him on set, it’s the first time I’ve seen him since the last time we were on set, even though we’d otherwise be hanging out a lot. I miss them, and to have this reunion moment is really special. Even looking at the backdrop that you have, from season one with Troy [Gentile] and me, it’s so sweet to see and truly makes me happy.

I love that. In episode 14, Erica worries that you two are in such different places and can no longer connect. Can you talk about Lainey’s take on that? What has this friendship meant to her while she’s been away?

AJ Michalka: I think when you have a friendship like Erica and Lainey, it’s something that lasts a lifetime. The thing I compare it to is growing up in Seattle, where I have a couple of childhood friends from that era of time. When I moved to California, I had to say goodbye to two of my best friends there. But the funny thing is, they’re still in my life. We’ve reconnected, and we feel like we never lost touch. When we do show up in each other’s lives, it just feels like no time has passed at all. I feel like Haley and Erica have that, so part of my relationship when I kind of play the role of coming back into her life. Reminds me of revisiting my time in Seattle.

lainey & erica in the goldbergs 1014

Is this a one-off episode for you, or are we going to have more of Lainey this season? Do you have a little arc coming up?

AJ Michalka: I don’t know. Right now, this was a one-off episode. Whenever they ask me to come back, I always say yes if I can do it. If I’m not on tour, I would love to finish out the season. But I know that they’re almost wrapped, so I’m not sure there’s many episodes left.

But if they get a season 11, which is probably in the cards for the good old Goldbergs, then I’d love to be back for that season. My dream is that I’ll be in the show finale. I hope that Alex and Chris and the whole team of The Goldbergs family can really honor that and make my dream come true. I would at least want to be in the final moments.

I would hope the same. After all, we know that Lainey and Barry reunite for a time at least in Schooled, and I think it’s implied that they are going to happen again. How do you view their relationship now versus maybe 10 years down the road?

AJ Michalka: I do think it’s one of those kismet relationships where you grow apart, maybe in your 20s, you get a little older and go date other people. That’s kind of what they both done. Then I do think they’ll find themselves most likely back together, whether that’s on air or something we all just want to dream up.

I really feel like Barry and Lainey are this bizarre pairing that is not only a hilarious one for TV, but also really relatable for some people. I’ve had people come up to me and be like, “I’m a Lainey, and I’m married to a Barry. It makes no sense, but this is my life.” I find it really funny and entertaining. And I think it’s an interesting duo, especially on major network television, so I hope that they can end up together.

I actually think that’s where the people behind the scenes of The Goldbergs have always wanted things to go. But we also need time to separate and grow and date other people.

barry and lainey in schooled

Absolutely. And even though Lainey’s musical career may not have worked out, you have a flourishing musical career yourself. I love “Baby Lay Your Head Down,” and I can’t wait for your upcoming album. What else is in the works for you musically?

AJ Michalka: I’m so excited. The third single on the album is called “After Hours,” and we’re going to release the record on March 15. I’m thrilled, and it’ll kind of flow us into a new tour. My sister [Aly Michalka] and I are going back on the road, and you can come see us live. We’re playing 20 dates through April, and we’re starting March 9 in Oakland. So, come see us live, and then flip on The Goldbergs. Maybe you’ll see me there.

Speaking of The Goldbergs, Adam is getting more into the musical side of things and doing some dance numbers. Does Lainey have any advice or vocal training for him?

AJ Michalka: Oh, that’s really sweet. Yeah, he is doing a lot more musically-oriented numbers on the show, and I think that’s actually very much a skill of Sean’s. I’m happy they’re writing for it, because I feel like Sean is one of those people who’s so dedicated to the work that he can excel at anything he wants to do.

It would actually be really fun if there was an episode or a moment where Lainey was coaching Adam through a performance or whatever; showcasing his voice and teaching him how you project and work your vocal range. I think it would actually be really cute. But I love that he’s getting that opportunity. To me, Sean is like a little Hugh Jackman. He can sing, dance, act — he can do anything.

Do you have any other acting projects coming up, or are you focused more on music right now?

AJ Michalka: At the moment, I’m focused more on music. I think with the new album coming out and prepping for the new tour, my headspace is really there. But throughout the rest of the year, I’ll be auditioning and trying to figure out what the next job is for me in the acting space.

I still want to nurture that part of my career, because while The Goldbergs and Schooled were a big part of my life, being on those shows naturally takes away from the time I can devote a lot to music. Right now, it’s music’s moment, but next, I’ll be able to pivot and focus on the acting side of my career.

Looking back on the time that you have spent on Schooled and The Goldbergs, what are you proudest of in terms of bringing Lainey to life?

AJ Michalka: I’m really proud of her growth as a person. I think this character right off the bat could have been perceived as a little bit of a cool girl who was not willing to hang out with kids that might be considered loners. She was a little less offbeat than the people she happened to hang out with. But I think that Lainey has really surprised people, and she’s become someone that can actually roll with everyone. She’s just more in the “popular” girl space.

I think she’s brought a lot of fun tension to the show, especially in her relationship with Barry. And her friendship with Erica has helped shape who Erica is; I think they’ve kind of shaped each other. But I’m really proud of who Lainey has become. It was hard for her to give up the music thing for a bit and focus on other parts of her career, like becoming a teacher.

I liked the fact that Schooled took her back into that Jenkintown world where she was able to nurture these kids that want to grow up and learn to sing or play an instrument. The fact that she was a music teacher created this really cool space for her to feel like she had a purpose.

About The Goldbergs Season 10

Adam fights Barry in The Goldbergs season 10

The Goldbergs are back! Our iconic ’80s family returns for a larger-than-life tenth season. The gang’s all here, with some surprise guest appearances, and they’re funnier and more heartfelt than ever before. Our favorite Jenkintown family continues to navigate a classic decade, filled with hi-jinks, heart, and hilarity. As life unfolds with new challenges, the Goldbergs continue to remind us that there is no bond greater than family and there is nothing they can’t handle with the support of one another.

Check out our other interview with The Goldbergs star Sean Giambrone as well.

Next: The Goldbergs True Story: What Each Character Looks Like In Real-Life

New episodes of The Goldbergs season 10 air Wednesdays at 8:30pm ET on ABC.

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