Twelve years is a long time to do anything, and the cast of The Big Bang Theory — like the actors on any long-running program — deserve medals for sheer endurance. But one member of the cast almost didn’t make it. Jim Parsons, the once (and future?) Sheldon, has spoken briefly before about why he left the show, but in a recent Entertainment Tonight interview, the actor opened up about the “really intense” summer that led up to the final season, a time that convinced him that Season 12 should definitely but definitely be his last.
Parsons recalls that he entered the twelfth season, which would have been the end of his two-year contract, with “suspicion in my heart” that he’d sign up for another round or two. After wrapping the 11th season, he realized he should trust his gut.
“That summer I went to New York to do Boys in the Band on Broadway and I think anything I felt got affirmed,” he said. “It was a very intense summer. Partly because of the part and the experience of doing the play, but more because [I was so busy].”
Indeed, he had no downtime between The Big Bang Theory’s season finale and the landmark queer play’s rehearsals. He had even scheduled to shoot a commercial on his first day off. He says he was already “exhausted,” as well as emotionally strung out, the latter due to the declining health of his and his husband Todd Spiewak’s 14-year-old dog.
“I’ll never forget that walk around the park to let him go to the bathroom before we went to the commercial, he just looked so bad and I was so tired and Todd was like, ‘We’ve got to go. We’ve scheduled this. They fit everything around your schedule.’ And I just started crying,” Parsons said, through tears. “It makes me upset now. I was like, ‘This dog’s gonna die while I’m off working. I feel so bad.'”
“So I went and did the commercial, I came back, and then Monday I went to do the play and he had a really bad seizure that night, so I knew that we had to make a decision… We called somebody and the person comes to put the dog to sleep at home … So that happened Tuesday. It really upset me. Still does.”
And then he broke his foot. During the next Saturday’s matinee performance, an already depleted Parsons walked out for his curtain call and slipped. To him it was a breaking point:
“It was the scariest moment for the next couple of days because… I felt like I was at the edge of a cliff and I was teetering and I saw something really dark below, between the death of the dog and [the fact that] I don’t know what they would’ve done if I couldn’t have gotten back on for the play.”
The summer, which he described as “very intense,” led to a breakthrough. “I had this moment of clarity — that I think you’re very fortunate to get in a lot of ways — of going, ‘Don’t keep speeding by… Use this time to take a look around,'” Parsons remembered. “And I did. I was like, ‘I gotta make a move.'”
He also thought about his late father. “My dad had passed years before, but he was 52. And I realized that at the end of season 12 I would be 46,” Parsons said. “… It was just a context thing.”
When he got back to Los Angeles, he broke the news to Big Bang Theory creator Chuck Lorre and writer Steve Molaro.
“I said, ‘If you told me that like my father I had six years left to live, I think there’s other things I need to try and do. I don’t know what they are, but I can tell that I need to try,'” he recalled. “… It was kind of clarity thrust upon you, as Shakespeare might have said… I was like, ‘OK. Let’s take charge here.’ And so that’s exactly what happened.”
Parsons started playing Sheldon in 2007 and concluded in 2019. Of course, the character has lived on, in short form, since 2017 with Young Sheldon.
(Via Entertainment Tonight)