Created by The Big Bang Theory executive producers Chuck Lorre and Steve Molaro, The Big Bang Theory spinoff follows 9-year-old Sheldon (Iain Armitage) as he grows up in East Texas and embarks on an innocent, awkward and hopeful journey toward the man he will become. Jim Parsons, who has played adult Sheldon for more than a decade on Big Bang, narrates the prequel series, which puts a hopeful and innocent spin on the nerdy genius.
“One of the things we learned going in is Jim has a magical quality. When he addresses the character of Sheldon, he can be so despicable and hard on his best friends but yet the audience forgives him,” Lorre said at the Television Critics Association press tour on Tuesday. “You take those same qualities and ask a 9 year old to bring that [and] he’s a brat. So we made a decision early on when he’s very naïve, when he’s not yet become cynical and overly controlling. He has his idiosyncrasies but he’s a much more vulnerable character in 1989.”
For Parsons, who serves as an executive producer on Young Sheldon, working with Armitage -- who he praised as being immensely mature for his young age -- has revitalized his love of acting.
“I was able to interact with Iain a lot and discuss what was peculiar [and] Sheldon’s take on the world. It’s an interesting topic for us to go through together,” the 44-year-old actor said of his younger counterpart, expressing gratitude over seeing his breakthrough role result in another show 10 years later. “It was a very moving experience to me to see something I’ve put a decade in my life toward. It was really moving to me to see this machine take off.”
“Seeing somebody like Iain taking over this part, it’s like, ‘This is fun!’” Parsons added.
Has Armitage’s performance affected his own portrayal on the mothership series?
“It hasn’t yet, to my conscious knowledge,” Parsons said. “I think that’s more of an effect for them writing it. It is great fun to record [the voiceover] while watching the scene I’m recording over. It’s still my knowledge of my adult character that’s carrying over in his commentary [of his younger life].”
One major Big Bang Theory tragedy -- the death of Sheldon Cooper’s father -- won’t be a lingering mystery like Jack Pearson’s death on This Is Us. At least that’s the hope. In a season seven episode of Big Bang, Sheldon (Parsons) mentions that his father, George Cooper Sr. (played by Lance Barber on Young Sheldon), died when he was 14 years old.
“We’re not going to play fast and loose [with that piece of Sheldon’s history],” Lorre said when asked whether they will count down to George’s death. “This is five years before that date that we discuss in Big Bang. People change and grow and develop -- and things happen over the course of many years. And we don’t have to follow an exact timeline. A season doesn’t have to be a year. It could be a couple months.”
“We have a lot of freedom with the backstory. There’s a great more deal to George … than we discussed in little bits and pieces on Big Bang,” Lorre added.
As for the chances of Big Bang cameos on Young Sheldon, and vice versa, Lorre noted that both shows exist in a shared universe, but nothing is in the works currently.
“We’ve discussed that the stories we tell in Young Sheldon can echo in Big Bang Theory,” Lorre explained. “We might meet them on the Big Bang Theory 30 years later. We’re definitely discussing the ripple effect that the shows can have going forward in time but we’re not there yet.”
Young Sheldon premieres Monday, Sept. 25 at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on CBS after The Big Bang Theory.