Creating quality laughs for television isn't rocket science, though it may benefit from some quantum physics. In the new CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory (premiering tonight at 8:30 pm/ET), Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons play Leonard and Sheldon, super-brilliant roommates who realize they don't necessarily have all the answers when a bubbly blonde beauty named Penny (8 Simple Rules' Kaley Cuoco) moves in across the hall. Complicating matters further will be the arrival of Galecki's "former wife," fellow Roseanne alum Sara Gilbert, as a geeky love interest. TVGuide.com asked Galecki if this Big Bang will create Monday-night sitcom success.
TVGuide.com: I said this the other day to [Big Bang cocreator] Chuck Lorre, but I don't think he believed me: I was watching the pilot during my commute, and I had to turn the DVD player off because I was laughing so much.
Oh, very cool!
TVGuide.com: The dialogue is funny, the situation is funny, the character types are funny....
Yeah, I'm feeling very fortunate. I love this group of people. We're having a fantastic time over there. They've really made having fun a priority, and I think that's coming across.
TVGuide.com: Did you have any hesitations about playing such an utter geek who at times may end up getting pantsed by a bully?
[Laughs] No, not at all. These characters have a real passion for physics and science and numbers, so much so that they love immersing themselves in that world. When you are like that, you can miss out on a lot of life experience, and I like the idea of my character wanting to change a little bit. He has this nagging feeling that maybe the rest of the world is having a fuller life than he is. That's the great thing about doing a series, if you're lucky enough for it to last, that you get to explore this individual in so many different environments and situations. I love that [Leonard and Sheldon] have this passion. That's why they're likable characters.
TVGuide.com: Is any small part of Leonard coming from a real part of you?
Definitely. I was a huge theater geek growing up, and that was not the easiest thing in the world, especially growing up in Chicago, where sports are really the norm. I was always off to the theater at night, from 7 years old on. Friends there in the Midwest who could talk to you about the idiosyncrasies of Pippin were few and far between. [Laughs] That's what I love about the script; it's about feeling like an outsider and getting frustrated by being misunderstood.
TVGuide.com: Is it a bit like being an ER cast member, having to spout all that technical jargon and mumbo jumbo?
A little bit. I hate admitting it, but that stuff isn't easy. People always ask about learning all of your lines as an actor, and it's generally the easiest part of the job. But to have this science jargon come out of your mouth and say it in the natural, casual way these guys would is not easy.
TVGuide.com: Does a sitcom vet like you still break or go up on a line?
I try not to break. Kunal [Nayyar, who plays fourth-banana Rajesh] was saying the other day that he knows at this point that he can look to me when he starts to break and I'll steel him up. But I've had to think of some horrible, dark and fiercely nasty things in those moments. [Laughs] We're having so much fun, it's hard not to break sometimes.
TVGuide.com: In the pilot, the elevator in the guys' apartment building is out of order, forcing them to plod up the stairs. Why do I have the feeling it will never be fixed?
You are a smarter man than I. I did not foresee that, but yes, it is still broken.
TVGuide.com: It would seem to allow for some fun walk-and-talk moments.
It does.... Any movement like that adds a natural feeling to a scene, as opposed to just sitting down at a table full of props.
TVGuide.com: For instance, they have a funny debate during that first time up the stairs….
Yeah, about if a stair is as little as 2 millimeters off, you'll trip on it.
TVGuide.com: Sara Gilbert guesting as another potential love interest for Leonard — how did that come about? Whose idea was it?
That was Chuck Lorre, initially.
TVGuide.com: All three of you date back to the Roseanne days….
Yeah. We had talked about another actress because Sara had just had a baby, but she decided she could do it. She jumped at it, and I'm actually on my way to rehearsal with her right now.
TVGuide.com: What's her character like?
She plays Leslie Winkle, a lab/work partner of Leonard's, which I love because you can see another side of him. Versus dealing with Penny, where there's so much fumbling, this is his work environment where the hallways are lined with accolades and he's a bit of a rock star. Having Sara there, there's an immediate comfort and confidence.... We had a blast.
TVGuide.com: What else can you tease about the first episodes?
It's great watching the different characters interact. It feels like the writers are moving our characters around like chess pieces: "Let's put these two together, let's put these together now.... " I've never seen a group of five characters have such different results when you mix them up. My character and Sara's character, the flirtation there, that sort of redefines how Penny sees Leonard. Like, "Hmmm, wait a minute now.... "
TVGuide.com: What sort of prior dating history has Leonard enjoyed?
I think there's not much of one! He's entirely thrown by Sara's character. They come from the same world and speak the same language — science and physics — so there's fun interplay. It drives us to get away from our Roseanne characters.
TVGuide.com: No Darlene-David in-jokes between you two?
No. No, no, no. If it was just that, it'd be gimmicky. [Another Roseanne alum, Laurie Metcalf, guests on a later episode.] The truth is, [Sara and Laurie] are just so talented and life is too short to not work with people you can learn from and love spending time with.
TVGuide.com: So, how long until we get the "extreme makeover" episode where Penny gives the guys some fashion tips?
[Laughs] That's not a bad idea.
TVGuide.com: It could be like Homer Simpson, where as soon as he shaves, it grows right back. She could style them up and....
[Laughs] They slowly unravel, yeah. Somehow that Prada suit just starts looking rough.
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