That Jim Parsons does not yet have an Emmy planted on his mantle is as stupefying as, well, any of the physics equations ‘The Big Bang Theory‘s set dressers scrawl on Sheldon and Leonard’s white boards. Who else could make someone so arrogant and insufferable so hilarious and loveable? On the occasion of Monday’s ‘Big Bang’ season finale (9:30/8:30c, CBS), Fancast invited Parsons to explain to us the science behind his creation of fiction as well as analyze the season-ending “romance” that some fans aren’t in love with.
Is it safe to say that Sheldon had a few drinks before speaking to the crowd at CBS’ upfront presentation last week?
No, but isn’t that funny? It crossed my mind, “Is that how it should be played?”
How long did you get to live with that ad-speak-heavy script?
Forty-eight hours. It was a harrowing experience. TelePrompTer reading is an art unto itself – especially if you’re used to theater or whatever, where your instinct is to naturalize everything and the exact opposite of that is to have an audience feel you’re reading something to them. That’s the beast we were dealing with.
What’s funny is that just as media types began tweeting that an opportunity was missed to have Sheldon meet “Captain Kirk,” with William Shatner also in the house… we in fact got that moment. Whose idea was that?
I completely didn’t think about that, and then somebody said to me they’d planned something. I was like, “I’d love to!” But I was nervous. I had never even met him before, and the first thing we do is share an embrace? But he is absolutely as charming and fun as he appears to be.
On a related note: Although Leonard Nimoy has announced his retirement from acting, I would think that if anyone can get him to do a cameo, [‘Big Bang’ creator] Bill Prady can.
I would hope so, and I happen to agree with you. I think that Bill has some persuasive powers. And whether it would tug at [Nimoy’s] heartstrings or not, we have certainly acted out a love letter to him over these years.
What did you enjoy learning about Sheldon this season?
What I enjoyed most of all was the flashback episode [that aired May 17]. We would rehearse the show for a week and they were forever telling me, “Go further back with Sheldon,” to highlight the effect that having someone like Leonard in his life has done for him, making him a more social creature. He had less eye contact with other people….
Yeah, it was like “Extreme Sheldon.”
Exactly. Like “Sheldon 2.0” – or “Negative 2.0.” That has been my favorite thing this year.
Brilliance in physics aside, how is Jim Parsons different from Sheldon?
I am so clueless about so many of Sheldon’s interests. That’s one of the reasons the Shatner connection didn’t occur to me. I don’t live in the world of graphic novels and comic books and ‘Star Trek,’ and I do not typically have trouble talking to people. Sheldon seems to lack empathy, if you will, while I take pains to understand where a person is coming from. Such things to Sheldon are over his head, under his head, to the side of his head….
As an actor, what’s the furthest you’ve ever gone from Sheldon?
I was once in ‘Wait Until Dark,’ the [Frederick Knott] play that was made into a movie starring Audrey Hepburn as a blind woman held hostage by this man (played by Alan Arkin), and that’s who I was. Your instinct is to think how different [a madman and Sheldon] are, and yet they’re both so smart. [‘Wait Until Dark’s Roat] was very conniving and able to work out the intricacies of a criminal situation, but he was also able to use his language and actions to frighten and elicit emotion out of people in a bad way. It was communication purely to elicit fear.
In the ‘Big Bang Theory’ season finale, Mayim Bialik (‘Blossom’) is introduced as a love interest for Sheldon. That has some fans worried about bidding adieu to his asexuality, which they adore so.
OK, I hear that. I will tell you that I can completely put those fears to rest, certainly for the finale. It is the most obscure, most un-pin-down-able meeting of two people you can ever imagine, a real ‘What’s going on?’ moment. To say that sparks fly would be to oversell it to the nth degree. In true Sheldon fashion it is not a “Love has arrived” moment. At one point I even asked Mayim, “Do you feel like you really know what’s going on here?” and she goes, “No.” I said, “Neither do I, so perfect.”
Whose acting do you admire?
Oh my god…. Tons of people….
OK, let me rephrase it this way: Who, if their name is above the title, compels you to see a film?
I’ve been really fond lately of Robert Downey Jr. He personifies for me that wonderful combination of interesting choices, interesting ways of dealing with a script and his part, and being utterly honest at the same time. One of the things I enjoy about our show is we’re not trying to do comedy with a wink and nudge. It’s hopefully always humor born of honest awkward moments and misunderstandings.
CBS surprised many when they announced last week that ‘Big Bang Theory’ would move to Thursdays this fall. What was your very first reaction?
That change is incredibly hard. Like any human being, I look at change and I feel scared at first. But as I live with the information… I feel very optimistic about it. I eventually thought, “If this works out, it will be very exciting to open up a new comedy segment for CBS.” CBS has always treated us very well and shown confidence in us. [Pauses] But it’s weird! It’s weird to not be on Monday night. This is our fourth time slot in four seasons. But knock on wood, their track record has worked out very well.