6:20am PT by Amber Dowling
'Young Sheldon': How Zoe Perry Plans to Walk in Her Mother's Emmy-Nominated Shoes
Like mother, like daughter?
That's what actress Zoe Perry is hoping when CBS launches The Big Bang Theory spinoff Young Sheldon, perhaps the fall's biggest swing.
The prequel follows a 9-year-old version of Jim Parsons' Emmy-winning Dr. Sheldon Cooper and his family in East Texas. Perry, the daughter of Big Bang Theory recurring guest star Laurie Metcalf and Scandal's Jeff Perry, will literally step into her mother's Emmy-nominated shoes as she takes over role of Mary Cooper, the devoted mother to the young genius (played by Big Little Lies breakout Iain Armitage).
The pressure to succeed in the 1989-set spinoff, from Big Bang Theory co-creator Chuck Lorre and showrunner Steve Molaro, is not lost on Perry, for whom Young Sheldon follows her recurring role opposite her father on ABC's Scandal.
"This has been such a whirlwind year for me where I've gotten the chance to go from one end of the spectrum to the other,” Perry says of her year of family ties on Scandal and upcoming Young Sheldon role. “I loved playing Mystery Woman [on Scandal], who was so quirky and mean. She had great one-liners. And now I get to be a no-nonsense, protective and sometimes stubborn but very loving mom."
Young Sheldon's family dynamics are a natural extension for Perry. The series follows Sheldon as he prepares to skip four grades and enter high school. The comedy closely explores the Cooper family dynamic, which includes his older brother George Jr. (Montana Jordan), twin sister Missy (Reagan Revord) and father George Sr. (Lance Barber), but while everyone sees Sheldon's gift as a pain, Mary is determined to see him through no matter what. Parsons exec produces and serves as the show's narrator.
"It's very much about the entire family dynamic," Perry told THR during Canadian broadcaster CTV's recent upfront presentation in Toronto. "Steve and Chuck gave everyone their own voice in this pilot, so you really understand the impact that Sheldon's genius has not only on him navigating this world but also on the rest of the family and how they have to adapt to him. It's reward and trial. None of it is easy but it’s also kind of glorious."
With so much pressure to succeed resting on her shoulders, Perry made sure she did her homework to prepare for the role. That included reviewing Metcalf's episodes of the flagship series.
"I definitely went back and rewatched her scenes because I wanted to make sure that I was in at least the ballpark," said Perry. "I wanted to remind myself what she sounded like and what her posture was and different tricks like that. But then because it's a totally different period, it was a fun exploration to ask where would she be at this stage of her life with these three little ones? So it allowed me the opportunity to kind of just see as I went."
Young Sheldon marks the third time Perry has played a younger version of her mother, having done so twice before in flashback episodes of Roseanne. (Coincidentally, Metcalf is returning to reprise her role as Jackie in ABC's Roseanne revival.) And while the character of Mary was in Perry's genes, the actress still had to audition for the role — though her family lineage wasn't lost on Molaro and Lorre. "I'm definitely in a privileged position, so whatever extra pressure comes is in my own head," she says.
While Perry says Metcalf has yet to see her daughter's take on Mary, she hopes to showcase a whole new side of the Cooper family dynamic and dig deep into what it might take to be a mother to a special needs child who is like Sheldon.
"Like any mom out there she just wants the best for her kids and she has a child that maybe she doesn’t understand," says Perry. "She knows he's very special and extraordinary and she wants him to have everything. She wants that for all of her kids but because he is extraordinary that can sometimes take her attention away from the others. It's a real balancing act that every parent could probably relate to. We all try our best and don't always think we're doing our best, but my God we try."
Young Sheldon debuts Monday, Sept. 25, at 8:30 p.m. on CBS and CTV in Canada before moving to its regular slot on Thursday, Nov. 2, at 8:30 p.m. on both networks.