10 Questions for Jim Parsons

The actor stars as Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory. Jim Parsons will now take your questions

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Has playing a physicist on television changed how you regard science?Wen Zhang, ATHENS, OHIO
I was very fascinated with meteorology at a young age. I lived on the Gulf Coast, and hurricanes blew through there. That is the class I failed in college: meteorology. I didn't have an interest in the particulars — but what a wonderful basis for a show. I think it's one of the greatest things we have going for us [on The Big Bang Theory]. But I'm not watching more Nova.

How do you manage to make an easily unlikable character a likable one?Julia Hall, MADERA, CALIF.
[The writers] are careful to soften the edges of the harsher words. The other thing is the way the characters are reacting to him — with exasperation and a resignation that they're going to put up with it. That translates to the audience as, Oh, well, they're saying it's O.K. I don't try to soften it. Frankly, a lot of times the point is to irritate.

Do you find yourself inadvertently mimicking Sheldon's odd qualities?Michelle Lacy, BRICK TOWNSHIP, N.J.
I have a tendency to rattle like he does. I can prrrrr like he does. There's a musicality to the way he talks. That will sometimes carry over into my own speech. But which came first? Was I doing that before I did this part? I'm not entirely sure.

Although it hasn't been addressed on the show, Sheldon clearly has some degree of Asperger's or autism. How did you prepare to play such a character?Michelle Shea, FALLS CHURCH, VA.
I didn't. We had already shot and aired several episodes before I was ever asked the Asperger's-or-autism question. I asked the writers, and they were like, No, he doesn't have it. It's been useful to us to utilize some of those "Aspergian" traits, but we need to be able to move away from it if we want to.

To what extent do you learn about the science in a particular episode before taping?Rachelle Haynik, BROOKLYN, OHIO
Enough to get by. With certain theories, I try to get a cursory knowledge — to understand what's apropos in the conversation.

Do Sheldon's jokes ever go over your head?Rick Morgan, SEATTLE
Yes and no. David Saltzberg, our science consultant, will [sometimes] put a written joke in formula form on the whiteboard that I don't get. And sometimes, even after explanation, I just don't find it funny. That's not because it's not funny. It's because I am probably a little too dumb to get it. Every once in a while they write a joke in plain English that I don't understand how to make work, and I will find out that I have missed the boat on their intent. That's been blessedly rare.

Are you worried about being typecast?F.J. Vargas, BERLIN
It already happens to a certain degree. All I can do is keep working, keep auditioning, keep talking to people — and whatever it takes to show other colors. It doesn't bother me. I love playing this part.

Which one of Sheldon's T-shirts would you keep?Natalia Capel, ATHENS, GREECE
There's a black Batman shirt I really like. There's also a light blue T-shirt with the test-color bars from TV. I like that one a lot.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi books, TV shows or movies?Suzi Beerman, NEWCASTLE, WASH.
My favorite sci-fi movie of all time is Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I was a huge Star Wars fan as well — but Close Encounters, I love. It creeped me out and made me feel comforted at the same time. There is life out there.

If you were stranded on an island with no technology, what three things would you bring?Marc Bigras, STURGEON FALLS, ONT.
A piano. A notepad. What else? This is hard. You know what? I'm going to leave the notepad, and I'm going to take both my dogs. But they'd die.