Emmy countdown: Jim Parsons

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Jim Parsons pop quiz

For CBS, nerds rule! And for Jim Parsons, ringleader of television's ultimate geek squad, his third-season turn as cynical genius Sheldon Cooper on "The Big Bang Theory" has earned him his second Emmy nomination. Parsons chats with THR's Leslie Bruce about the upcoming season, helping out a fellow nominee and the potentially tragic fate of a cat in a box.

The Hollywood Reporter: Congratulations on your second nomination. How is this one different from last year's?

Jim Parsons: I was really nervous last year; I had to keep reminding myself to enjoy it. This year, I found out about the nomination when I was in my kitchen having coffee at that ungodly hour. The caffeine definitely added to the nerves of the situation. It was so dreamlike. This year, I'm not as nervous, but I still tell myself to enjoy it because these moments are fleeting.
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THR: The role of Sheldon is so complex. Is there any particular intellectual that inspired you when you were developing this character?

Parsons: I remember a guy from elementary school, he was one of the few honest-to-god geniuses that I've ever run across. But, for me, it's all in the writing. Sheldon's a character that says what he's thinking. I get asked a lot, "What about Asperger's?" When I first got asked that, I didn't know what it was. So I asked the writers and they said he does not have it. He certainly has many traits of Asperger's, but I think it would be a big responsibility if we announced that we have a character with the syndrome. It's a lot of responsibility.

THR: What hints can you share with viewers for this season?

Parsons: There's going to be a woman in his life, Amy Farrah Fowler, played by Mayim Bialik. I don't know to what degree, but it will be a unique and special relationship. I met her character at the end of last season. We still hang out by the first episode. I have no idea how Sheldon will respond to a relationship. If he had feelings for this girl in a romantic sense, would he even understand what that was? I just don't know.

THR: There are so many dense, technical phrases in each episode. How do you even begin to memorize or understand them?

Parsons: There's a page at the beginning of every script that says "Scientific and Unfamiliar Terms." It has a phonetic spelling of words from the script and the definitions next to them. I've become great friends with dictionary.com and Wikipedia. I just keep pacing around my house repeating them over and over until they are literally falling out of my mouth. So, a lot of it is the physical work out of just getting them memorized and being able to spit them out on tape night.

THR: Of everything you have learned from playing Sheldon, what has really stuck with you?

Parsons: Nothing sticks with me, none of it. But I did learn about Schrodinger's cat. I kept that story with me, partly, because he had to explain it to Penny (Kaley Cuoco). There's a cat in a box, which is quite an image, and there's some sort of poison in the box. See, I don't even remember all of it. There's a cat in a box somewhere and it may or may not be poisoned. I do know that you have to open the box again to see if the cat is dead. It's a morbid image.

THR: If you could step into the character of any of your fellow lead actor nominees, comedy or drama, who would it be and why?

Parsons: I would never be cast in this part, but I would love to play Kyle Chandler's role in "Friday Night Lights." He's about 180 degrees from Sheldon. He's much more of the earth than of the head. He makes that role look very easy -- which is part of the reason I don't think he was nominated before. I was always so surprised that he wasn't. This was the first year I got to vote, and I was like, "Well, dammit, I'll nominate him. I'll put him on my Scantron." So, I do feel partially responsible for his nomination.
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