Robert Englund has haunted many of our nightmares as the iconic dream demon Freddy Krueger, but it’s been 15 years since he last donned the bladed glove and striped sweater. Fans will be happy to know Freddy’s returning, but not where you’d expect him, as he makes an appearance on the ABC sitcom The Goldbergs for their Halloween special. We chatted to the horror master about the heartfelt reason he decided it was time to return.”I’ve sort of surrendered Freddy, and I’ve been doing a lot of other projectsâ€”horror, lots of voiceovers, gamesâ€”and I didn’t think The Goldbergs was going to be a good fit,” Englund told us. “They were talking to me and talking to me, and I’ve been protecting Freddy and the integrity of Freddy for so long, but Freddy has been so absorbed now by popular culture. There’s LEGO Freddys, there’s Freddy on The Simpsons, there’s Freddy on Rick and Morty, there’s female Freddys, there’s sexy Freddys, there’s Hello Kitty Freddys, there’s Peanuts Freddys, and so I just said it’s not my responsibility or burden anymore to protect him.”Still, Englund took some convincing. “When they approached me I said no immediately because I couldn’t imagine Freddy on prime time. I could imagine him on a special episode of American Horror Story or something like that, but then when I got the scriptâ€”and this is the truthâ€”I’d sort of been having an epiphany after having done 10 years of Comic-Cons and film festivals.”As it turns out, it was the fans, and how they’ve been watching and discovering Freddy Krueger, that got through to him. “I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from first generation fans, whoâ€”and I’d never thought this at time because I was so defensive of the characterâ€”told me that a lot of the American people who watched the Nightmare on Elm Street movies walked to a mom and pop video store,” Englund said. “The kids were allowed to pick a movie, and the parents picked Pretty Woman and the kids picked up Freddy. Then sometime between Friday night and having to return it on Monday morning, they watched Nightmare and they saw their parents get scared.”Englund continued, “You know, it was a big thing. Mom and Dad let them watch their first R-rated movie or their older brother dressed up as Freddy or their older sister scared them by scratching the screen outside at night. I’ve had this feedback now for a good 10 years, and it’s very surprising to me because what it’s taught me is this movie, that I was ostracized for doing as an A-list actor from the ’70s, [is] actually in a strange way a surrogate family film. A lot of ’80s families experienced it in the intimacy of their living room or den with a video machine going, mom’s food or a takeout pizza, dad cracking open a six pack, and it became an intimate family experience.”For Englund, something about the The Goldbergs script tapped into the sentiments accompanying the discoveries he’s made about Freddy and his fans. “Some of those people tell me they’ve lost those moms, those dads, and those step-parents now, and those memories are indelible to them,” he said. “When I got the script it was almost like Adam Goldberg had been with me at these confessions that I get from fans, and even though he’s telling his own stories with his own home videos, it’s so similar to this love that I’ve been getting from at least one generation of my fans. This revelation that I’d had of this family experience of people watching a Nightmare on Elm Street marathon with their mom and dad on Halloween, surrounded by deflated balloons and candy corn, it’s really a wonderful kind of love that I get back, and Adam’s first draft was so close to that.”Englund added, “I just thought it was such serendipity that not only had Adam come up with this idea, but also it’s Halloween. So it’s a Valentine for The Goldbergs fans, it’s a Valentine for my fans, it’s a Valentines to the family fans. It’s not Freddy being violent or scary, it’s just a Valentine to a Halloween memory of a more innocent time.”
The Goldbergs Halloween special “Mr. Knifey Hands” airs on Wednesday, October 24 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.