Mighty Ducks of a feather flock together. Entertainment Weekly recently revealed that an upcoming episode of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers — the new Disney+ series based on the beloved '90s franchise — will reunite Coach Gordan Bombay (Emilio Estevez) with several members of his pee-wee hockey league from back in the day, including enforcer Fulton Reed (Elden Henson), forward Connie Moreau (Marguerite Moreau) and the frequently injured, Lester Averman (Matt Doherty). But at least one Duck won't be attending the reunion: Goalie Greg Goldberg, played by Shaun Weiss, wasn't invited back. In real life, Weiss has struggled with drug addiction, and multiple arrests, before entering recovery in early 2020. The now-42-year-old actor reportedly celebrated one year of sobriety this past January, and recent pictures show him looking happier and healthier.
That news thrills Weiss's former on-screen coach. "I'm terribly proud of him," Estevez tells Yahoo Entertainment, adding that he feels a personal connection to his co-star. "As everyone knows, my family is not immune to that sort of scrutiny." (Estevez's brother, Charlie Sheen, has publicly struggled with his own addictions.) Estvez also says that he has not reached out to Weiss while the actor has been on his "very personal journey" back to recovery. "I do hold him in high regard and I know getting sober for him is obviously a big deal. The first leg of the journey is now under his belt and in the last photograph I saw, he looks fabulous. I'm encouraged and I'm hopeful." (Watch our interview above.)
Having grown up in the industry as the son of two prominent actors — Martin and Janet Sheen — Estevez knows all too well the difficult path child actors like Weiss have to navigate to adulthood. "It's an almost impossible journey," he says. "The business is tough on everyone, and it's especially tough on young people." And even though Weiss wasn't invited to join the first season of Game Changers, Estevez suggests fans should never say never to a Goldberg cameo. "Steve Brill, the original creator of The Mighty Ducks, and I like to say that the door is always open to any of the Original Ducks to join us," the actor says, hoisting up his own vintage jersey from the 1992 franchise-starter. "Once an OD always an OD. The Original Ducks are certainly welcome to join us."
But Game Changers isn't just focused on the past: It's also about the present. Picking up 25 years after the third and final Mighty Ducks movie, the 10-episode series flips the script by making the Mighty Ducks the bad guys and a new team of misfits the plucky underdogs. That new team is led by Lauren Graham's single mom, Alex Marrow, whose hockey-obsessed son Evan (Brady Noon from the R-rated comedy hit Good Boys) is cut from the Ducks and becomes a founding member of the inventively-named Don't Bothers. Unable to book practice time at one of the big facilities, Alex finds a rundown rink operated by none other than Coach Bombay — the guy who flew the Ducks to greatness all those years ago. But this isn't the Bombay we remember: Instead, he's sworn off hockey and has taken up a new habit of eating leftover birthday party food.
Estevez says that Bombay's appetite for discarded cake and pizza reflects his overall unhealthy state of mind. "He's eating leftover food and sleeping on the couch in his office and he doesn't shower it seems. He doesn't have any friends or wife or girlfriend and never had any kids. It's like 'What's the matter with this guy?' Well, we'll find out over the course of these 10 episodes what happened and where he's been and how he arrived at this unflattering place." To try and separate himself from the character, the actor insisted on a healthier alternative to stale cake. "I didn't want to eat a bunch of sugary cake for that scene, so I was like... 'Can we make it out of cornbread?' But corn bread, unless it's sopped in sauce and beans, is really dry. So I'm eating it and trying to deliver my lines and the cornbread is falling out of my mouth! It was such a mistake in my insistence on being more healthy."
One recurring theme in Game Changers is how the current generation of parents have let themselves become too involved in the lives of their kids. After Evan is cut from the Ducks, Alex unloads on the coach and the other parents, accusing them of treating youth sports as work rather than play. "That was something I really connected to," says Graham. "Everything she says, I agree with. What are we doing to these kids? Also, on that day, Brady told me that as a result of that speech he thought I was as funny as Sarah Silverman. I will always treasure that!" Estevez, meanwhile, says that he's observed similar behavior from "showbiz parents" over his decades of experience in the business. "Overparenting and overcoaching is something you don't just see in the sports world, but in entertainment as well. We didn't have those issues on this show, but I've bumped into it before."
But Estevez also believes that parents and kids can find common ground with the overdue return of the Mighty Ducks, which he describes as a "full circle" moment for him. "The last time I was in a mainstream movie was the year I shot Mighty Ducks 3 and the first installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise," he remembers. "Of course, we all know how that ended with Mission: Impossible — not well! I went off and did 25 years of independent filmmaking... and that was fun, but it feels like now this is an opportunity to come back into more mainstream fare. It feels like we're at a point where people are feeling nostalgic for different reasons. The country has suffered incredible and painful losses, and I think people want to tuck into something that feels like comfort food."
The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers premieres Friday, March 26 on Disney+.
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