When CBS debuted “The Big Bang Theory” in fall 2007, Jim Parsons, who plays neurotic genius Sheldon Cooper, emerged as a breakout star.
The show survived its strike-shortened first campaign and returned for a second season that was so strong the network gave the show a pickup for seasons three, which bows Monday, Sept. 21, and four.
Parsons is Emmy-nominated for the first time this year. He chatted with TheWrap about being on a hit sitcom in today’s fickle TV day-and-age, the role Comic-Con plays in its success and, yes, budget cuts.
"The Big Bang Theory" had an interesting path to ratings success. You bowed in the strike-shortened fall ’07 season and the ratings were good. But you were on the bubble and the pickup for a second season wasn’t guaranteed. Yet, when you came back for season two last fall, the show really caught fire.
I think the material we are presenting is truly funny (thank you, writers) and that we portray characters who are not only fallible (and therefore relatable), but they have also developed into characters with depth and traits that an audience can rely on, week after week. We have been treated very well by both the network (CBS) and the studio (WB), and, at the end of the day, we’ve also been lucky.
You guys have been a huge hit at Comic-Con the last two summers. Strange place for a sitcom to catch fire, but it seems like the right audience.
I don’t think any of us were sure that we would be an appropriate fit at the convention when we first heard we’d be attending but the fans of the show have been simply terrific. They ask the smartest questions and seem so genuinely pleased to talk with us, as we are with them.
As an actor, have you noticed the effects of budget cuts that everyone in TV is going through right now?
No, I have not. That doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Maybe I was memorizing unfamiliar science terms while they took away square footage in my dressing room?
What’s been the biggest surprise and the biggest disappointment to come with fame?
There have been no disappointments for me, as far as this show and my life with it have been, and I say that in all sincerity. I am getting to work at the job of my dreams (certainly one of many versions of that dream that I’ve had) and that makes me, at a level, continually happy. As far as surprises go, getting a two season pick up from CBS kind of floored me — I just had not been aware of that ever happening; certainly not lately.
People are in love with your character and transfer that to you, don’t they?
I think Sheldon’s saving grace, as a character, is that he truly means no harm even when he offends someone or says something that make others feel awkward. He is a scientist and, in order to get to the truth you must have all the facts and deal with them.
The other actors keep Sheldon grounded in reality: their reactions to him are honest and usually tinged with love and, I think, when the audience has the chance to view Sheldon through those other characters eyes, they have the chance to love him too.
If you weren’t on "Big Bang Theory," what current show would you like to be on?
I would love to be on “Friday Night Lights.” I don’t have a specific pitch for a role that I’ve had in mind, but that’s a damn fine show with some damn fine acting on it. Bravo. I am also from Texas and think they’ve captured something about it perfectly.
Facebook or Twitter have certainly changed things for everyone. Is your show "into" that?
I believe there is a "fan page" for me on Facebook, but I do not have control over it. As for Twitter, I was a member for about three days. I read other people’s Twitter postings and they were so funny and creative and I realized that I was incapable of contributing in that way.
All I had to offer was a listing of what I was up to and I decided that I didn’t want everyone to know everything I was doing — especially since ALL of it centered around what meal I was having or would soon have. How boring. And embarrassing.
Do you have any aspirations to write or direct?
I have aspirations to write and direct. I think. Really, though, I am still having so much fun acting and I still feel like I learn something new with such frequency that I have devoted almost no time to any other career choice in the industry. I really think I will at some point.
You announced the Emmy nominations with Chandra Wilson and you both were nominated. Can you describe what it felt like to find out you were nominated while you were there on stage?
It felt like a lie — like it wasn’t really happening. It felt like I was doing a play or something with Chandra. It was only after I got home and watched us on DVR that I really felt like it was official.
How does it feel to be a fashion icon? Have you visited Sheldonshirts.com?
I would not know how it feels to be a fashion icon as, I swear, I am not one. However, Mary Quigley, who happens to be a producer of our show in addition to the costume designer, would, I imagine, feel flattered. She could make a couple extra bucks on the side… just sayin’.