Despite Jim Parsons cementing his reputation as Sheldon, he might not have been the casting’s first choice. As the series ends, Jim Parsons’ legacy lives on, but could he have been something more?
There are few things in pop culture now that have long legs. Sheldon Cooper has become one of those things, a testament to a good character’s longevity in a TV show. However, despite the widely acclaimed performance by Jim Parsons, Church Lorre recently said that he was not sure about casting him at first. Could things have turned out very differently for our favourite nerd on television?
- Chuck Lorre has a different Sheldon Cooper in mind
- Jim Parsons almost wasn’t Sheldon Cooper
- Could Sheldon Cooper have been someone else?
Chuck Lorre has a lot of feathers in his cap. He started multiple series like ‘Two and a Half Men,’ ‘Mom’, and ‘Dharma and Greg’. He will probably be best known for his work on ‘The Big Bang Theory’, a series that has become a cultural staple in many ways.
The longest-running multi-camera sitcom has garnered praise from fans worldwide. After the fourth season, it always got in audiences north of 11 million, despite abysmal ratings from the critics. This isn’t new for Chuck Lorre, though, who had received similar criticism for ‘Two and a Half Men’.
He might have made a big misstep with Jim Parsons when he started ‘The Big Band Theory’, which might have derailed the show for years to come. Recently, an interview stated that Chuck Lorre was not sure about Jim Parsons’ casting. Jim Parsons was so good in his initial audition that Lorre immediately thought that he would never be able to turn in that level of performance again, dismissing it out of hand.
Bill Prady described the audition process in ‘At Home with the Creative Coalition’ podcast, saying that the other actors who walked in were average. They were putting in performances that would be acceptable but nothing that would woo them. When Parsons walked in, he immediately turned the audition on its head. In one fell swoop, he had created the character they had previously had on the script. Jim Parsons was turned down after his audition for ‘The Big Bang Theory’ because Chuck Lorre was unsure that he could turn up as the same character ever again.
What could have been
It’s challenging to imagine Sheldon Cooper as anyone other than Jim Parsons, as Johnny Galecki stated, even he didn’t know who Sheldon would be until Parsons showed up on the screen. But, if Chuck Lorre’s lack of surety about Jim Parsons’ casting had meant the casting of a different actor, the show would have changed immediately.
We already know who would have played Sheldon if Jim didn’t come in. The producers had contacted Johnny Galecki, when they first pitched the show, to play Sheldon Cooper. Lorre had already worked with Galecki on ‘Roseanne’, so he was at the top of his list. However, Galecki was more interested in the role of Leonard.
He was not the only cast member, Kevin Sussman, who played Stuart in the show, had auditioned for Sheldon Cooper’s role. If Galecki or Sussman had played Sheldon, we would have got a different series. While it’s hard to imagine Galecki as the character, Sussman’s Stuart ended up being very close to the closeted and hard-to-read Sheldon with his dead-pan humour.
Jim Parsons without Sheldon
Jim Parsons has, for the past decade, become Sheldon Cooper. But it’s not like he has not done excellent roles otherwise. His turn in ‘Hollywood’ for Netflix was universally lauded. He also has a film on Netflix called ‘Boys in the Band’ and has worked with Julia Roberts and Mark Ruffalo before.
In essence, Jim Parsons was going to go big even without Sheldon Cooper. Could he be as popular, though? Jim Parsons initially turned down the role after his audition for ‘The Big Bang Theory’, which would have meant that he wouldn’t become a household name. As an actor formerly confined to side characters and small advertisements, he wouldn’t have an easy time breaking ground.
While he could have become a household name with serious acting roles, he would not hold the cross-cultural reverence that he has commanded with his turn as Sheldon Cooper, becoming one of the most memorable personas on television.
Chuck Lorre narrowly avoided a terrible mistake by casting Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper, even though he was apprehensive. And even though both the show and Parsons’ career would have moved on from it, our cultural world would be a lot different if the stars didn’t align. We have Bill Prady to thank for the long-running success of ‘The Big Band Theory’.