Imparting knowledge and passing on the possibilities in an interesting exercise when the character you play on a major international TV show is that of Sheldon Cooper, played with finesse and specific approach by Emmy winner Jim Parsons. Visiting the set of “Young Sheldon” as part of the Warner Brother TV Day at Warner Brothers Studios during the TCA Winter Tour 2018, Jim sat down to talk about the evolution of the character, his perceptions and the living on of Sheldon’s legacy.
Your understanding of Sheldon has evolved over the years including unforseen aspects of compassion. Can you talk about that?
Jim Parsons: Well, what’s interesting to me is — and again, why I’m not a writer is because I don’t see things like this. But what they touched on, how we’re seeing, of course, [in this show] is how Sheldon evolves into who we know him to be on the adult older show. And I made a joke with [the younger actor], “Eventually you’ll get to be more irritating,” I said today to him. But it’s really kind of the truth about it. It’s like we’re going to see the slings and arrows – I’m sorry – of life and just growing turn him into even more of the person I’m playing. I don’t know. It’s interesting.
And yet there is more a transformation as the older Sheldon has become engaged…
JP: I do agree with that. I think that it’s one of the journeys they’ve really worked to take him on. We’ve had several different episodes, it feels like, where Amy is coaching him in the ways of being empathetic — we’re working on an episode right now, not to give anything away, where he realizes that she doesn’t do certain things that she wants to do because she knows how he’ll react to it. And he doesn’t like it. And so he begins — it’s another example — he starts trying to work on not complaining about what she wants. It lasts for a couple of pages (laughing) I’ll be honest, as an actor, I really thank God for it because it’s one of the fences that they straddle so well as writers is keeping everything true enough to keep the audience there, but moving it along enough to keep everybody working on it interested, I think including themselves. It’s a major gift and the longer we’ve gone on our show, the more evident that’s become.
Now the overarching journey, especially with your — Sheldon’s relationship with his mother in “Young Sheldon” — I mean, obviously that affects how you relate in present time
JP: Well, I feel like, if I’m being honest, the writers keep doing the thinking about it. So not to sound like…
But you inhabit him.
JP: Without a doubt. But so much of the inhabiting process for me is just saying the words out loud in rehearsal. And once you’ve done that, how IT makes you feel to say it, how it affects the person that you’re saying it to…that kind of instructs it along. And I also will say, I’ve tried to be — I don’t overthink this, but I have always tried to be very conscious of — it’s kind of what they teach you in acting 101 — don’t judge your character or whatever. I try to leave myself enough at the whims of him to be able to do kind of a 180 from one script to the next if it’s just not that happening in that week or whatever the mood is that Sheldon’s in. I don’t know. At the same time, I guess, I’m not thinking about it too much.
So they’ve talked about writing the end of the show. Can you see going several more seasons?
JP: I think anything is possible. But that’s the thing. I just think anything in thisv– it’s getting into really odd territory as far as less and less examples [of places] to go. “Well, they did this. And there’s this other show did this.” It’s really getting into a very individual state of how does everybody feel and whatever. And that includes the writers, who we’ve not had some major discussions with. There hasn’t been a cast and producer discussion about the future of our show or whatever. I will tell you that, for whatever reason, they’ve all been enjoyable seasons. But as far as camaraderie goes, the frivolity on the set, and just the jovial atmosphere has never been at a more pitch degree than it is this season. And I don’t know if that’s because they’re always like, “I think the end is near”. Or just because it’s uncertain now where we’ve gone through so many seasons, we’ve been lucky enough to just know certainly what’s going on.” But I don’t know. I think it’s related to some sort of appreciation of each other that you were able — kind of like family — to just kind of take it for granted that they’re going to be there next week. They’re going to be there. And now the weeks are might be getting short. You just don’t know. So because of that, I could see making things go further. It’s really hard to say. And there’s so many people making their own decisions and all.
How has your appreciation for TV evolved?
JP: Well, you know what’s funny is the day and age we are in I feel is, in a good way, overwhelming. I think we’re in a wonderful time in the entertainment industry in general as far as everything goes. But it’s still so in flux, and changing, and moving, and growing. Just the sheer amount of options is just– it’ll be really interesting to see because you can’t help to feel like everything is still evolving.
How much time do you spend on doing the voice-over for the show?
JP: Very little. I can do anywhere from three to seven episodes in a 45-minute period. I mean, even on a heavy episode. What I enjoy about this process [is that] it’s different version of using timing and a different version of putting a pause here or whatever there that will make it funnier, hopefully, or just change it. And when it’s not timed to visual, it’s just less of that.
Can you talk about imparting appreciation to Ian? So he knows sort of what to expect in terms of the impact of Sheldon as a character. You’ve said that you’ve sort of guided him. But how do you maintain that sort of mentorship?
JP: Well, if it’s happening at all, it’s happening as organically as it can, and it’s happening a lot through his mother. Lee Armitage, his mother, and I, we are usually texting and incontact with each other a bit, like quite frequently and not for a pointed purpose. We just enjoy talking. But as you do with relationships, the specific questions get snuck in, not snuck in, but they just come up. Like, “Have you ever been to one of these events before?” And so it just happens very organically like that. There’s no real preparing for anybody for some of the more, oh God, recognizable type aspects of this and the celebrity of it or whatever, just the being noticed. Any preparation, especially with young people, and really, for adults, too, has to happen before. And, in these kids’ cases, they really do have a remarkable set of parents. They’re all different. They’re all unique.
Does that allow the kids to be naturalistic, do you think, in their acting? Or does it have to be nuanced?
JP: I don’t know if that’s a direct relation, but I do, now that you say that, I have to think that, yes, none of them have a kind of like – I don’t know – squeaky little cutesy thing that they came in doing. They all just kind of, as the adult actors do, read the material, say it, and see where it goes.
But as creator Chuck Lorre has, you found the way to make somebody like Sheldon so likable despite some of his characteristics. There’s an art to that.
JP: Well, I think, though, that it’s partly, too, a point of view that a lot of actors come in with to varying degrees and is, in their own special way, seeing what is redeemable about my character? Because coming into it with over-obvious assumption, of course, that my character doesn’t want to do harm. Of course, my character wants other people to like him or her in one way or another. And when you kind of approach it through that, I think that’s really the way around in how things are, if not softened, the audience can be able to identify in like, “I’m a good person, and I say nasty things sometimes!” (laughing). I don’t know.
By Tim Wassberg
IR Exclusive Print Interview: Peter Giraldi Of Blue Ribbon Content [WBTV Studio Day – TCA Winter Press Tour 2018]
The aspect of the diversifying element of digital and conventional is a continuing discussion that permeates both the marketing but also the creative and production ends of new material. Peter Giraldi, who serves as Executive VP, both of Blue Ribbon Content, Warner Brothers’ digital platform, as well as Alternative Programming at Warner Animation, has a unique perspective in both looking at the tastes of millennials and older but also to the new consumers presently consuming digital entertainment. Giraldi spoke with Inside Reel at the WBTV Studio Day at the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank, California about evolution, creative decision making and instinct.
We spoke before about animation and how animation feels. Can you talk about the different ideas and styles of how that fits into the bigger idea of what Blue Ribbon versus Warner Animation proper which has evolved from its shorts beginnings.
Peter Giraldi: That’s right. I split my time between Blue Ribbon and Warner Bros. animation, so a lot of what I do is still in the animated world, and I took that with me. Both Sam Register and I took that with us when we started Blue Ribbon. It is important. The thing is that animation is very expensive when it’s done well, and it’s all super long production time. So part of the thing that we’re doing is trying to figure out new methodologies, new partners to kind of condense that. Not the quality, but the — maybe it’s paperless animation, maybe it’s digital, maybe we’re doing more stuff in Harmony or a program like that, so we can condense that a little bit.
Does itcome down to the timeframe of it? Where you got 5 minutes first in terms of lenth, 10 minutes. You’ve got everything from Samurai Jack back to Teen Titans Go!.
PG: Yes, for sure. And I’m comfortable in the short form in between 7 and 11 minutes. I do a lot of stuff for Adult Swim, and those are quarter-hour formats. It’s more about, first of all, what the story is. Secondly, what that vision is, the art direction or the creative direction of whatever it is, and how you get that across, with the budget and the runtime. Is it very stylized, is there a lot of held frames, is there a lot of motion graphic trickery? Or is it full-on just drawing, drawing, drawing, drawing, drawing. There’s two different ways. We did a show called Ginger Snaps — it was on ABC digital– actually Ashley Simpson does the voice for that, but it’s a young writer named Sono Patel. And for that we used — we were very smart – we used an animation facility in New Zealand because it worked for us. We missed no turnaround time. Because by the time we got in in the morning, all the shots were ready for us to look at [from the day before], and that really condensed the budget for us. So, because of my experience in animation, I can look into it a little bit and understand the pre-pro and how to work it out for the budget.
How active are you guys in development? In going after, taking those meetings, finding those new voices…
PG: Very active. A lot of times, it’s like, how do we take what they’re doing and — maybe it doesn’t need anything from us. We just give them our support and let them keep doing what they’re doing. Sometimes, they want to learn more and elevate a little bit, so we bring some more “traditional” talent into the party. Or sometimes they actually say, “You know what, I’m done. Can I mess around with the Hair Bears or Snagglepuss?” Sometimes what helps attract talent as well, isnot us pushing…it’s people coming to us and saying, “I’ve been a Huckleberry Hound fan my whole life.” It’s like, “Well, come on over.” And to be open to able to try new things with it…within reason.
I was able to see Killing Joke finally, but I saw it Joke on my tablet. Nothing else beyond that. Can you talk about that, and talk about people consuming that way, especially animation, not just live action.
PG: I think, for animation specifically, it’s fantastic because it’s backlit — and I’m talking pure technical now — it’s a backlit medium. [So the tablet is] fantastic for animation. It’s perfect. That’s the way we create it, half the time, either on a lightbox, or a [Cintiq or something like that. It’s great, the range of color, the range of effects, the range of — and even in the pre-production of how it’s actually created — it’s great. Digital has done great things for animation. What has not done great is people thinking they don’t have to draw anymore. There’s no getting away from drawing. It takes a lot of drawings to make a lot of good animations.
We don’t want 2D to go away.
PG: That’s not where my tastes lie in CG. I’m a 2D guy. In a 3D world.
By Tim Wassberg
Very few Hollywood writers have had the kind of interaction with both comics lore and top tier filmmakers in honing the craft. David Goyer is one of the elite few. He worked on The Dark Knight Christopher Nolan Trilogy but also on Man Of Steel & Batman Versus Superman. On top of that, he is actively working on “Fantastic Voyage” for Jim Cameron as well as being in the writers room for the new Terminator trilogy as soon as the right reverted back to the legendary director. His TV work is also very accomplished. Most recently he created “Constantine for NBC and “DaVinci’s Demons” for Starz. Next might be the most high stakes challeng”e for him via TV: “Krypton” on SyFy which follows the exploits of Seg-El, Superman’s grandfather. After completely a panel for “Krypton” at the NBC TCA Winter Press Day, Goyer spoke with The Inside Reel about texture, family and responsibility within his new series.
Can you talk about integrating Adam Strange as a sort of perceptor point for “Krypton” as a series?
David Goyer: Jeff [Goyer] and I always have a soft spot for him. As Jeff said, he’s a guy who ping-pongs around the world. I think he’s got an interesting backstory in and of himself, so maybe there was a possibility for an interesting spin-off or something like that. And we just thought we needed an audience proxy for the show. We needed somebody to represent people that aren’t comic book fans, that maybe don’t know anything about the Superman mythology. It seemed like a good match, and as Jeff alluded to, in terms of some of the other comic book arcs– there’s just some interesting things that we can do with him, particularly looking forward to season two and season three.
Can you talk about casting Seg-El and what compelled you about Cameron Cuffe as the character?
DG: It’s funny because I saw his early audition in the UK, and I called Jeff and I said, “I think he’s the guy. Check him out.” I don’t know. He’s calm and he’s heroic. He’s instantly likable as a person when I met him. I was joking about the talk, but that was a very real talk that we had in London. I said [to him], “You’re going to be under a tremendous amount of pressure, and it doesn’t mean you have to be a choir boy, but it does mean that you are an ambassador on a different plane than most comic book worlds.” And he got it. And he’s a genuine fan. He genuinely wanted to be there, which is also really important, because when you cast someone like that, you are thinking about, “Okay, this has to go hopefully for eight, nine years, and [we’re] at the beginning of it.” But he’s going to be front and center, doing all this press, meeting all these people in real life, and he will be an ambassador for us as a show. So he’s a great actor and he’s mature for his age, or it just doesn’t happen.
Now how did the whole idea, when casting, how far along were you in the writing process, and how did that sort of inset to the psychology of Seg-El as a character?
DG: I mean we were — if we hadn’t cast Cam, we would’ve had to push filming. We were right up against start. We’d already seen over 500 people and we cast sort of everyone but him.
And all 10 episodes of Season One were written at this point?
DG: No. Not all 10 were written. We’d written the first three. So we were literally talking about pushing production because we hadn’t found him, the guy. We’d already cast Georgina, who plays Lyta Zod, and the only reason she’s not out here, too, is because they’re both in so many scenes– we’re still filming — It was impossible to get them both here at the same time.
Did you ever worry, I mean chemistry-wise, that you hired the most important guy last? What if he doesn’t match up?
DG: Well, that’s why we had a screen test with Georgina. I mean, because they have to work together, because there’s a Romeo-and-Juliet aspect to the show, which I shouldn’t talk about. And so their relationship is the central relationship in the show.
This must be an intense production…
DG: It’s definitely intense. In terms of Warner Horizon, it’s by far the biggest budget — or Syfy. In terms of science fiction, it is the biggest budget show we’ve ever been on.
Could you talk about the family aspect? The whole thing with Zods. You can’t give too much away, but can you talk about the intersection of that?
DG: It’s a big, big aspect of the show, and the show is — it is as much about the House of Zod as it is about the House of El, and so family lineage, and what families stand for, and the family name, is an enormous part of the show.
By Tim Wassberg