On July 18, Jim Parsons received his fifth Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy -- an honor that does not diminish with time, according to The Big Bang Theory star. In fact, every role, fan, ratings point and opportunity he's gotten as a result of playing Sheldon Cooper has been a cherry on top of the sundae that's mostly cherries by this point.
With The Big Bang Theory resuming production on season seven this week, Parsons swapped New York City (where his summer was spent reprising the role of Tommy Boatwright in Ryan Murphy's HBO adaptation of Broadway's The Normal Heart) for Los Angeles. A trip, he jokes, that's quickly becoming a yearly ritual required to properly slip back into Sheldon's shoes.
Upon landing back in LA, Parsons rang up ETonline to reflect on the sublime six years he's spent with Sheldon and reveal his hopes for the next six.
ETonline: Congratulations on the Emmy nomination!
Jim Parsons: Thank you very much!
ETonline: Do you try to sleep through the nominations or do you wake up and watch?
Parsons: Well, it's kind of a hard thing to sleep through if you know it's happening -- and most people seem to. The past few summers I've been in New York on the morning of, and it's 8 a.m. there, so I'm old enough now that I naturally get up before that time, so I've been awake. If I was in LA at five-something, I don't know if I would be able to be awake, but I haven't gotten to test that theory. I will say, if that's the case, it must be because I'm extra tired -- being nominated for an Emmy certainly doesn't get old. If anything, I have to be frank, it's really gotten sweeter. It's more of an honor. I can't put my finger on exactly why, but I just feel very grateful to be included. I'm trying to soak in the joy as much as possible.
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ETonline: Big Bang Theory is a commercial smash, a critical darling and one of the most popular shows on television. Does that surprise you or did you know from the outset this show was capable of being all those things?
Parsons: Well, it's funny, I feel both ways. On one level, I'm stunned. In the same way that I'm stunned I get any part. It's not that I don't believe in myself or the product, but it's such a fickle business. It's all about opinions and what one person enjoys. There are many a good show and a good movie and a good play that have not made their money back for whatever reason. Now, we taped, probably, four episodes before the first one aired, and even then I felt really good about the show, what I was getting to do and how the live audience was reacting. So on that level, I was not surprised because the reaction we were getting from the 100 or so people in our audience was so positive. That's still a very small sampling, so, yes, I still remain somewhat surprised and stunned. And now it's a different kind of stunned because we're six years in. That feels like a bit of a rarity. I just count my blessings and am very happy that I still enjoy doing the job as much as I do.
ETonline: How long can you see yourself playing Sheldon? Another seven years?
Parsons: Gosh, seven on top of seven does sound like a long time, but, that said, I do -- knock on wood -- envision myself doing this for a few more years. The business being the business, who knows, but when I look forward into my own future, as much as I dare do, I do see The Big Bang Theory being a part of my life. And a lot of that speaks to, again, the joy we still have in doing it. There's not an ounce of my brain wondering where the escape hatch is. And I've been in situations like that -- not just with television, but even the short run of a play. There are moments where you wonder, "Will this ever end?!?!" [laughs] This is a real testament to, frankly, the way Chuck [Lorre] runs a show and how Bill [Prady] and Steve [Molaro] manage the writing and the characters. It's a testament to them that it's such a joy for us to keep working on the show. And maybe that's the inexplicable lighting in a bottle you look for.
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ETonline: When you look back at Sheldon in the pilot and Sheldon at the start of season seven, what excites you about his growth?
Parsons: I didn't have any designs of him in season one. You could only think one episode at a time because we didn't know if the show would stay on the air, so everything was about making the best episode we could. Of course that's still there to a certain degree, I don't dream too much grander, but I have more memory in my bank for the same character, so I do find myself reflecting on things that happened last season. Like the relationship with Amy. I feel the writers handled that so gracefully and naturally and made these leaps in character but kept them very rooted. While I don't have any designs on the future, I do feel a great sense of excitement in my belly because so much seems possible. All those odd advancements in character were so fun to take part in so I'm very excited to see what they might have in store for Sheldon this season. It's one of the great things about not being a writer. There is a sense of unwrapping gifts every week. That has never gotten old. When we get the script delivered to us after a taping, there is a feeling that we're unwrapping a present from the writers because we rarely have any idea what's going to happen with our characters unless they need to physically prepare us for something.
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ETonline: That said, is there anything you haven't done with Sheldon yet that you hope to do before the show ends its run?
Parsons: No, I can't say there is. One of the reasons I'm not a writer is because I'm not as inventive with these situations or these characters. That might be because I'm not a scientist or because I don't read graphic novels or comic books and don't play [games]. One of the fun things about playing this is character and playing with these other characters for six years is these are situations I do not find myself in, these are passions I do not share. And I don't say any of that in a judgmental way -- which is, in some ways, the point. I feel very free to embrace these particular passions with the wholeheartedness the writers put into them because I don't have many preconceived notions about them. I don't know the first thing about playing Dungeons & Dragons personally, so if you tell me this is what we do, then this is what we do. And if you tell me I'm angry about it, then I'm angry about it. It's that level of gift-opening I talked about earlier. It's that element of surprise about the situations they put Sheldon in, they made me so happy. They're always challenging in a very positive way, and I just pray to God the writers decide they don't want to work on the show any more because then we'd be really screwed [laughs].
The Big Bang Theory premieres September 26 on CBS.