Although Jim Parsons came to fame in the early 2000s for his memorable turn as eccentric Sheldon Cooper on the hit CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory, he had worked for years as an actor in both film and television. He appeared in more than a dozen failed television pilots before landing the role that would earn him several major awards, including four Emmys and a Golden Globe. Parsons began his career in the theater and appeared in several films, including Garden State (2004), The Muppets (2011), Wish I Was Here (2014), and Hidden Figures (2016). His role on The Big Bang Theory continued throughout 2017.
Launched Acting Career
Born on March 24, 1973, in Houston, Texas, James Joseph Parsons was the son of a plumbing supply company owner father and a school teacher mother. Interested in acting from an early age, he graduated from Klein Oak High School in Spring, Texas, in 1991. Although Parsons attended the University of Houston with the intention of becoming a meteorologist, his interest in acting and theater eventually resurfaced.
Parsons began his acting career in Houston as a member of Infernal Bridegroom Productions, a theater company. While living in Houston, he also worked for Microsoft Sidewalk. He eventually earned a master's degree in acting at the San Diego/Old Globe Theater and then moved to New York City. He performed in theater productions and commercials, and he had a guest spot on the NBC show Ed (2002). Parsons also landed a small role in the movie Garden State in 2004.
He could not pay his bills by acting alone, so Parsons worked for a construction company and collected unemployment as needed. He continued to appear in commercials for companies such as Quiznos, Stride gum, and FedEx. Parsons eventually moved to Los Angeles, where he continued to take small parts in film and television. He appeared in several episodes of Judging Amy (2005) and in films such as School for Scoundrels (2006) and 10 Items or Less (2006).
Landed Role in The Big Bang Theory
During this time, Parsons also appeared in numerous pilots for shows that were never picked up by television networks. In 2007, however, Parsons read for the part of the nerdy physics genius Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory, and he knew the role was a good fit for him. As he told Luaine Lee in the McAllen, Texas, Monitor about pilots and finding Big Bang, "That's the way it goes. That's what's so rare about it. I tested for several that year and just didn't get them. That's why I had to prepare for this one because I felt this was probably the one that was going to fit, so you've got to be ready if the door's going to open."
Parsons also identified with Sheldon, who could be fussy but brilliant. He told Guy Davis of Australia's Geelong Advertiser, "I'm not nearly as rigid as Sheldon but I've got some grumpy-old-man aspects. And I can be a little obsessive with things, but not quite to the degree he can." The complex role of Sheldon won Parsons the admiration of both fans and critics. The popular character appeared in an episode of the prime-time cartoon Family Guy, with Parsons providing the voice for the animated Sheldon. The actor also received several major awards for his work on The Big Bang Theory, including a Golden Globe in 2011 and two Emmy Awards in 2010 and 2011 for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series.
His popularity on television led to other roles in film and on the stage. In 2011 he made his Broadway debut in the play The Normal Heart. He also had parts in the films The Big Year (2011) and The Muppets (2011). The actor returned to Broadway in 2012 with a starring role in the play Harvey. He continued his work on The Big Bang Theory, winning two more Emmys in 2013 and 2014. Of the show's success, Parsons said in an interview on National Public Radio's Fresh Air, "I know all of us are so fond of the characters we play. And I think that's one of the major keys to this show working--that affection on the part of everybody working on it for these characters and I think that engenders affection hopefully from the audience."
In 2014 he reprised his role for the HBO film adaptation of The Normal Heart and appeared in the film Wish I Was Here. He next lent his voice to the animated film Home (2015). He again returned to Broadway in 2015 for the play An Act of God. He also appeared in the horror film Visions that year. In 2016 the actor had a role in the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures, for which he shared a Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding cast performance.
Parsons married his longtime partner, Todd Spiewak, in 2017. He continued his role on The Big Bang Theory throughout 2017 during the show's eleventh season. He also began work on the series's spin-off, Young Sheldon, which he will executive produce and narrate.
Won Golden Globe Award for best performance by an actor in a television series--musical or comedy for The Big Bang Theory, 2011; Primetime Emmy Award for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series for The Big Bang Theory, 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014; Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 2015; (shared) Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture for Hidden Figures, 2017.
- Boston Globe, February 8, 2009.
- Geelong Advertiser (Australia), January 9, 2009.
- Houston Chronicle, August 5, 2009.
- Los Angeles Times, June 1, 2009.
- Monitor (McAllen, TX), December 2, 2007.
- New York Post, April 22, 2009.
- "The Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons Marries Todd Spiewak after 14 Years Together," People, http://people.com/celebrity/jim-parsons-marries-todd-spiewak/ (August 3, 2017).
- "The Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons to Play God on Broadway," Theater Mania, http://www.theatermania.com/new-york-city-theater/news/an-act-of-god-jim-parsons-broadway_71510.html (December 3, 2015).
- "Jim Parsons," IMDb, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1433588 (August 3, 2017).
- "Jim Parsons on 'Big Bang Theory' Contract Dispute and Double Emmy Nods," Entertainment Weekly, http://insidetv.ew.com/2014/08/22/jim-parsons-on-big-bang-theory-contract-dispute-and-double-emmy-nods/ (October 22, 2014).
- "Jim Parsons: 'It Was a Moving Experience' Filming the 'Big Bang Theory' Spinoff 'Young Sheldon,'" Us Weekly, http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/jim-parsons-filming-young-sheldon-was-a-moving-experience-w495541 (August 3, 2017).
- "Jim Parsons on the Science of Sheldon, 'Big Bang,'" National Public Radio, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130156625 (December 2, 2011).
- "Jim Parsons to Star in Broadway Revival of 'Harvey,'" Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/30/us-stage-jimparsons-idUSTRE7AT2CX20111130 (December 2, 2011).
- "Thursday Premiere Ratings: A Bigger Bang Theory, Modest Start for Angels, Suspect," TVLine, http://www.tvline.com/2011/09/premiere-ratings-big-bang-community-greys-charlies-angels/ (December 2, 2011).