Jim Parsons and Iain Armitage are the only two actors in history to have played Sheldon Cooper on television. While Parsons has 10 years experience in the role, Armitage is just getting started. The nine-year-old plays Cooper in the new series Young Sheldon, on which Parsons is executive producer and narrator.
But during an interview with The Talk on Thursday, Parsons seemed reluctant to call the show a “spinoff,” even though every media outlet has done just that. The show focuses on Cooper as a youth back in 1989, when some of his famed childhood experiences take place, but before he’s become the challenging adult known to fans of The Big Bang Theory.
Producer Chuck Lorre told media this week that it was important not to transfer all of adult Sheldon’s traits into his younger version. As Deadline reported, Lorre felt Sheldon’s ego just doesn’t translate well to a child.
“[T]he character of Sheldon can be despicable. He is so difficult and hard on his best friends. And yet somehow … the audience forgives him. But take those same qualities and ask a 9-year-old to bring that – it’s a brat.
“So we made the decision early on, [EP/co-creator] Steve [Molaro] and I, to enter his life when he is very naive. He has not yet become cynical and overly controlling. He has his idiosyncrasies, but is much more vulnerable as we enter, in 1989.”
That’s where Parsons comes in, as adult Sheldon narrating the scenes from his youth. He can inject some of the adult Sheldon when appropriate, in order to maintain the thread from The Big Bang Theory. An extended trailer of the new series, posted by The Hollywood Reporter, begins with adult Sheldon talking about how much he’s always loved trains. It also offers a hint that Sheldon may have some affection for his father, possibly written to be more complex than how he has been referred to in Big Bang.
Another thread that ties Young Sheldon back to The Big Bang Theory is Zoe Perry, the actor who plays Sheldon’s mother. She’s the real-life daughter of Laurie Metcalf, who plays Mrs. Cooper on Big Bang.
Young Sheldon looks very different from The Big Bang Theory, as it’s a single-camera sitcom — Lorre’s first — with no live studio audience ready to provide laughs on cue. From the looks of the trailer, Young Sheldon may be more of a dramedy — comedy mixed with drama — than a straight up sitcom.
With the new series — one can call it a “prequel” if “spinoff” ruffles some feathers — in production there are also set to be changes at The Big Bang Theory. Steven Molaro, who was the longtime showrunner on Big Bang, has taken on that role for Young Sheldon. Deadline reported that Steve Holland, already an executive producer on Theory, will become the new showrunner.
Parsons is producing the new show along with Todd Spiewak, Lorre and Molaro. EW reports it will find a permanent home Thursday nights starting November 2, after having a special debut on Monday, September 25 at 8:30 pm on CBS.
[Featured Image by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]