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Present-day Sheldon Cooper is now engaged to longtime girlfriend Amy on CBS’ The Big Bang Theory. But in 1989 East Texas, a nine-year-old Sheldon (Iain Armitage) has entered high school, much to the chagrin of nearly his entire family — save for his mother, Mary (Zoe Perry) — on the network’s prequel series Young Sheldon.
The spinoff, from exec producers Chuck Lorre, Steve Molaro and Emmy winner Jim Parsons — who narrates his alter ego — explores the childhood of Big Bang‘s favorite genius, including his dynamic with twin sister Missy (Raegan Revord), older brother Georgie (Montana Jordan) and father George (Lance Barber).
Monday’s series debut included several nods to the flagship — Sheldon’s love of trains and Professor Proton (Bob Newhart) — as well as some family drama to come (which we won’t spoil here).
Below, showrunner Molaro breaks down the Young Sheldon series premiere and looks to what’s next for the series — including Sheldon’s love of comics and Meemaw’s arrival.
Are you approaching the writing of the show in the same way as Big Bang, or does its prequel status change things?
Sheldon being a little kid definitely changes things. We need to write for nine-year-old Sheldon a little differently. Where Jim Parsons can get away with more harsh jokes, the younger version of Sheldon is more innocent and optimistic.
What are some of the larger themes you’re looking to explore?
While the show centers around Sheldon growing up in East Texas, it’s very much about his family as well. The impact of having an exceptional child is a big part of the show.
There are several nods to the flagship — most notably Sheldon’s love of trains and Professor Proton, as well as the way he speaks — how did you determine where you started when filling in his backstory?
We knew Sheldon graduated high school at age 11. That was the starting point that lead to the realization that he probably was in high school with his older brother, and how awful that must have been for his brother.
One of the notable things missing here is Sheldon’s love of comic books. Why hold that back, and when is that coming?
We thought it would be fun to have Sheldon not love comic books yet and get to see how and why he falls in love with them. That happens in episode four.
Every member of the family sacrifices something for Sheldon. How much will this be a recurring thread?
One thing I like about the show is that each character is so impacted by Sheldon that the series could be about them. A protective mom with a difficult, outcast kid. A typical dad who doesn’t understand his son at all. A twin sister who is often overlooked because of her unique brother. An older brother who just wants to fit in at high school and has to go there with his nine-year-old brother.
Mary is the staunch Sheldon defender. How much of that is a source of friction with George?
Part of the friction in the marriage is definitely caused by Mary’s protectiveness, or over-protectiveness, of Sheldon. She can be “mama bear” to a fault. It’s easy for everyone else in the family to feel left out. It’ll be ongoing.
Georgie seems to struggle the most with having Sheldon around. How will we see him attempt to cope and move forward?
Poor Georgie, he can’t get away from Sheldon. If they aren’t home together they have classes together. High school is hard enough.
Reagan Revord is hilarious as Missy, who really doesn’t hold back at all. What’s her larger function for Sheldon?
I think Sheldon is very smart but often blind to reality. Missy has a much more solid grasp of what’s actually going on and is happy to inform him, whether he wants to hear it or not.
Annie Potts is coming in as Meemaw. How will her arrival change the show?
Annie is a gift! While Mary might coddle Sheldon, Meemaw doesn’t at all, but he still loves her dearly. She is a hilarious and wonderful addition.
With a young cast, will each season be set in a different school year?
How optimistic of you that there will be another season! Thank you! Please ask me this question again when I actually have to worry about it.
In success, could you follow Sheldon through high school, college and post-grad?
I’d love to see how this little boy makes his way through college, but right now we are just focused on getting his tiny butt through ninth grade.
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