Dec. 05, 2013

Backstage at 'The Big Bang Theory'

by Ira Flatow

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"Hi. Want me to put your name on your dressing room?"  
 
My what?  
 
"The trailer over there. It's your dressing room. Here's a name tag. I can leave it off if you want. You never know who might show up."  
 
That was the moment I realized that I had been formally welcomed into the gang at The Big Bang Theory. It was late November outside Studio 25 at Warner Brothers in Burbank, California. Working in New York, I've seen so many dressing rooom trailers lining the streets for actors in various films and TV shows shot on location—but this was the first one with my name on it. 
 
Four years ago I had been an unseen guest on the program. In that episode the main character, Sheldon Cooper, explained in a staged telephone interview with me on a mock SciFri show the physics of magnetic monopoles. This time a note from executive producer Faye Oshima invited me to come to the set in California where they would build a mockup of our SciFri studio and control room on their own sound stage (same one where Casablanca was filmed!), and I would appear in the episode. 
 
I was starstruck. Having hosted a televison show for six years on PBS (Newton's Apple) and having appeared on many TV news programs, getting in front of a camera was no big deal. But getting to work with professional Hollywood actors, with all of their Emmys and credits, and knowing that the biggest name in TV land—Chuck Lorre—had not only okayed my selection but would be on the set watching me "act" did make me a bit nervous. 
 
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But the entire cast and crew made me feel right at home. Faye, her crew, and the technical staff treated me like a welcome guest. Jim Parsons and John Galecki showed infinite patience. Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch offered pleasant coversation. John Ross Bowie, who plays Barry Kripke, came over to say hello and commented about how the name "IWA FWATOE," which is how he pronounced it in the first show, seemed to be written expressly for him, lol. 
 
My greatest fault, among many I'm sure, was timing. As director Mark Cendrowsk said: "You're a radio person. You abhor the quiet moments. Here, we welcome them. We need time for the audience to laugh. So see if you can pause a bit after you say your lines and allow time for the laughter."
 
And so donning my signature TV clothing—sweater vest—and makeup, I settled into the SciFri studio set, which looked so aunthentic it gave me welcome comfort just sitting there. 
 
When all was said and done, Cendrowski insisted I not worry about my acting. He had "gotten everything he needed," or else he "wouldn't have let me go home."  
 
How well did I do? You be the judge . . . and please let me know.  The episode—"The Discovery Dissipation"—premieres tonight (December 5th) at 8 p.m. ET on CBS. And forever in reruns. 
 
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*This post was updated on December 5, 2013 to correct the spelling of John Galecki's name. 
About Ira Flatow

Ira is the host and executive producer of Science Friday.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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