If there is one breakthrough TV role over the past year or so, it is Jim Parsons' turn as physicist Sheldon Cooper in the hit CBS sitcom "The Big Bang Theory."
Brilliant, supercilious, socially clueless, Cooper is alternately hysterical and horrifying. And Parsons' Emmy-nominated performance is so spot-on, it seems as if the character and the actor are the same person.
But unlike Sheldon, the tall (6-foot-2), 36-year-old Parsons, a Houston native, is actually a sports fan who does not speak Klingon. We discussed the role and other matters with Parsons while he was on a production break.
What did you think about the part when you first read for it?
As a character, I don't know I felt a relation at all. What I had a feeling about was the way the dialogue was structured, the way they had structured Sheldon's speeches. Sheldon has always taken that many words to get to a point. I thought, and I still think, they brilliantly use those words that most of us don't recognize to create that rhythm. And the rhythm got me. It was the chance to dance through that dialogue, and in a lot of ways still is.
You're so identified with the character right now, are you worried at all that you'll be typecast in the future?
No. I see the reality, I see the "problem" that it could pose for me. But I say no because I don't really have a choice at the end of the day. I feel like I throw myself no more or no less into this role than I have in anything else. I feel like, as an actor, should I be pulling back on how much I give to this character? Should I soften his edges so I don't make the same impression? That's the only thing I can do, and that's an impossibility.
What were your influences growing up?
I was very interested in sitcoms. I remember watching "Three's Company" a lot. And I was really formed by "Family Ties," "The Cosby Show." As far as movies went, my parents took me to "Star Wars," and when I began making my own choices. "Grease" was big, then, when I was older, "The Color Purple."
When did you realize you could make it as an actor?
I did a play in high school, "Noises Off," it's a farce, and it was the first time I felt the most honest connection to a character and a play. It was the first time I felt like an honest-to-God actor. I thought it was going to be horrible, and I'm still astounded at the reaction we got. I realized it was something I was good at.
Sheldon is kind of the ultimate geek. In what ways are you geeky?
I like words, and I like numbers. I like crossword puzzles a lot. I like to deal with lists and rankings and statistics. I'm surprised I'm not more into baseball, because I could geek on that. I love Casey Kasem's Top 40, I love that order.