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Three is comedy

2009-11-17 10:05

SABC3 is about to get geektastic! The hit comedy The Big Bang Theory – or TBBT, as we true nerds call the show – is set to begin on the channel with a big, um, bang!

It’s a hilarious look at what happens when universes collide. More specifically, at what happens when a hot girl moves in across the hall from two cool nerds. Johnny Galecki plays chief nerd Leonard Hofstadter, a sweet natured experimental physicist, while Jim Parsons plays his difficult roommate Sheldon Cooper, a neurotic theoretical physicist (a specialty which indicates he’s the cleverest of them all – TBBT is jam-packed with physics in-jokes).

Former Charmed star Kaley Cuoco plays Penny, the gorgeous (and rather nice) actress/waitress who moves into their building. Leonard immediately fixates on Penny, much to Sheldon’s dismay, and the amusement of their friends, Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) and Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg, wearing the tightest pants known to man).

Science, nerd rivalry, robots, comic books, acting/waitressing, terrible roommates, parents and friends . Big Bang gets big laughs out of the lot. tvplus asked Jim, Johnny and Kaley to tell us more.

Were you ever a geek or did you ever consider yourself alienated?
Jim: Still do. To a degree. I felt half-and-half. I had a nice group of friends, but there were groups – especially football players – in (his home state) Texas who didn’t appreciate me. We’ve talked about being the theatre geeks.

Johnny: Same with me. I’m from Chicago, where sports are the norm and community theatre isn’t considered cool in the school yard.

Kaley: I feel like I have an inner nerd, but whenever I say that people never believe me.

How did you create your character?
Jim: The writers have been in charge of creating the character. I’m doing what I see on the page. It’s being filtered through my twisted mind – or my twisted body. I feel informed by the language the writers have Sheldon use, that syntax, the long sentences, the long words, the articulation. When I see the show on the air, I admit that sometimes I look rather silly, which is fine. In the pilot, it said “Sheldon finds a seat”. There’s half a page where he’s searching for a (comfortable) seat, so that’s how I did that. He feels awkward and out of sync, until he doesn’t, and then he’s very, very sure of himself.

Johnny: Chuck (show creator Chuck Lorre) talks about the vulnerability of the characters, whereas I think his other male characters (like Charlie in Two and a Half Men) have a certain bravado. If these guys ever have it, it’s very false. He’s always been the champion of protecting that vulnerability. There’s no malice within them whatsoever, which is why, if any of the guest stars is being manipulative toward these guys, the audience really turns on the character immediately. The audience feels protective of them. We feel protective of them.

Kaley: Originally my character was quite different, a little harsher. But there had to be a softness to her or no one was going to believe she wanted to be friends with them. From day one, Penny wanted to be friends with them more than they wanted to be friends with her. She is just the sweetest. She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. But at the same time, she can send snarky remarks back, just like Sheldon. They’ve written her wonderfully.

Jim: Kaley has informed the writers deeply through her performance. No other character has changed quite as dramatically and gotten as much depth as Penny. You showed them what you’re capable of doing, and they’ve started to write that. They trust you with material a lesser actress couldn’t handle.
Kaley: I’ll pay you later.
Jim: Thank you.

Sheldon can be very condescending. Jim, how do you strike a balance for your character?
Jim: There’s no meanness in him. But the most fun thing is that he can get away with saying anything in the name of science. Just calling a fact a fact. He can be a little snippy, but when he’s mean with Penny, it’s just him calling out the facts of the situation. In the live tapings, there are a couple of times when we’ve had 15 minutes of down time and Chuck will say, “Sorry, we were trying to save your character so it doesn’t come out as too cutting.” If it’s not coming from that innocent place, then it hurts.

Will there be a relationship between Penny and Leonard?
Johnny: I think Leonard learnt that when communicating with women, and specifically with Penny, there are lines to read between, but he doesn’t really know the language yet. It still looks like hieroglyphics to him, but he understands that there’s something to read, and I think that was a leap in evolution for him when it comes to communicating with Penny.

What is Sheldon’s response to Leonard’s feelings for Penny?
Jim: He’s just irritated. This is a waste of time. He’s dealt with Penny as a neighbour who obviously isn’t going anywhere. I think this is a small version of a nightmare for him.

Can you tell us what’ll happen in the coming season?
Kaley: Sheldon will be annoyed with whatever happens.
Jim: True enough (laughter.)The creators always say these characters are going to change at the rate of watching paint dry, which is kind of lovely in a frustrating way. Also, we are some of the most clueless cast members in terms of where plot is going. We don’t know what we’re doing. We hear from friends who are actors that they went in to play an upstairs neighbour and we say: ‘We have an upstairs? That’s fantastic!’

The Big Bang Theory starts on SABC 3 on Tues 17 November at 19h30. 

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Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco and Johnny Galecki shared some comedy chemistry lessons on the set of The Big Bang Theory.

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