Perhaps Simon Helberg is ashamed to admit that he shares some of the same qualities (or at least the same fashion sense) that make The Big Bang Theory's (Mondays at 8 pm/ET, CBS) Howard Wolowitz "the biggest nerd on the planet." But as long as he keeps the laughs coming, we couldn't care less. We chatted with Helberg to see how he stayed busy during the strike, what new levels of geekdom we can expect in the remaining episodes and just where the man and dork divide.
TVGuide.com: So how happy are you to be back at work?
Simon Helberg: I'm very glad to have a reason to leave the house. I turned into a bit of a hobbit over that little hiatus. I was bearded and felt like I belonged at Woodstock or something. So I finally shaved and showered and came back to work, which is just great.
TVGuide.com: Since you weren't showering or shaving, what did you do during the strike?
Helberg: Well, I did shower. I don’t want anyone to think I'm a wreck. I actually struggled through teaching myself to cook because I'm completely ignorant in the kitchen. So I did really macho things like trying to make my own curry. Really hardcore stuff.
TVGuide.com: Wow, curry! That's a little more advanced, than, say, making grilled cheese.
Helberg: Yes, it is. I jumped straight from one to 10. I could barely boil water before the strike and here I am making traditional Thai red curry. I've always been afraid of catching something on fire or splattering boiling water, but I got over that hurdle and actually presented something edible.
TVGuide.com: What sort of shenanigans can we expect from Wolowitz in what's left of the season?
Helberg: Well, you're going to get a glimpse of his bedroom, which is something I just know has been on everyone's mind. Where does the man hibernate and where is the magic made? You also get to see his lab this week. In all these episodes, he is the one who's sort of concocting these wild missions, like when Sheldon gets sick and the guys try to escape his phlegmy web by setting up spycams and Mission: Impossible-style stunts to sneak into the apartment without him noticing. There's a lot of high-tech assembly, so he really gets to flex his muscles.
TVGuide.com: Did you add any of your own props to the bedroom set?
Helberg: It was all pretty much set up. I had my own little ideas, but they did a really great job. It was exactly what I pictured it being like. I will tell you, there are light sabers above the bed in cross-swords formation, which is kind of awesome.
TVGuide.com: Will we see any more of Penny's promiscuous friend?
Helberg: Not as of now, but I have a hunch she might come back. I mean, it's not every day that Wolowitz gets lucky.
TVGuide.com: Do you hold the fact that Wolowitz got some action over the other guys' heads?
Helberg: In that episode he definitely was flaunting it any moment he could. But then it's on to the next day. And every day without action is a loss.
TVGuide.com: What's the craziest thing going on around Jupiter's moon right now?
Helberg: Are you being literal or metaphorical? Did I miss some big news or something? [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: No, I was just trying to tap into Wolowitz's crazy universe.
Helberg: Oh, good. I mean, I, of course, research my character all day long with NASA. [Laughs] No, but this week there's a scene where he's building something for a European spaceshuttle launch. So he is keeping in the know on what's going on in space. It's his gig.
TVGuide.com: Will Wolowitz be learning any new languages to woo the ladies?
Helberg: It's funny — they haven't given me any language stuff in a while. I've done some impressions. I impersonated his mother, but nothing new to really woo anyone. They always give me something crazy to do with my voice.
TVGuide.com: I remember your Stephen Hawking impression. Any chance he'd make a guest appearance?
Helberg: Gosh, that would be the coolest thing! I don't know. I've wondered if he watches. It could be his dream come true, who knows? If he'd be open to it, he can come on down.
TVGuide.com: I was a big fan of Studio 60 and hated to see it go. How was your experience on the show?
Helberg: My audition was a lot like the auditions for Saturday Night Live. You come in and you do characters and impressions, but you also read from the scenes for the show. It was sort of the best of both worlds. I got to kind of do the thing that I've grown up admiring and being a fan of and explore all the options of it, without the pressure of actually being out there live. It's kind of like playing — you get to pretend like you're on Saturday Night Live. But it was also just amazing being around such talent, and such visionary people — again, the best of both worlds.
TVGuide.com: What would you say is your best celebrity impression?
Helberg: I did an Al Pacino that [the Studio 60 producers] liked a lot. They were actually going to write it into an episode. I do a Robin Williams. I actually do a lot of impressions, but they only used a couple on the show.
TVGuide.com: So, how much like Wolowitz are you when it comes to the ladies?
Helberg: We are pretty much completely different. I'm married, so I guess that's one huge difference. I don't know if Wolowitz will ever settle down. He's like James Bond, just always ready and waiting for any situation with women. He's like an encyclopedia of ways to pick up on women, and he doesn't know what the word "no" means. I'm definitely a little more indecisive and neurotic and probably more insecure than he is. So it's fun to step into the shoes of such a lothario.
TVGuide.com: Wolowitz's wardrobe is awesome! Are you hoping to keep some of it when the show winds down?
Helberg: [Laughs] It's funny — sometimes there will be a piece of clothing that I either own or I was about to buy. I can’t believe that I'm playing the biggest nerd on the planet, and this is something that I think is cool. [Laughs] I wouldn't wear turtlenecks. That I'm not envious of. But who knows? I might sneak out a few things and hope and pray that no one says, "Hey, didn't you wear that when you were playing an enormous geek on TV?"
Watch full episodes and clips of The Big Bang Theory in our Online Video Guide.
Sign up now for our free Daily Scoop e-mail newsletter to get the inside scoop.
Send your comments on this Q&A to email@example.com.