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How ‘Big Bang Theory’ characters have evolved over 12 seasons


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The Big Bang Theory cast celebrates their twelfth and final season at The Langham Huntington in Burbank, Calif.
Harrison Hill, USA TODAYThe long-running success of CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” might be explained as the Sitcom Theory of Evolution: survival of the ever-so-gradually maturing.“The characters grew. It expanded the relationships and what the characters were capable of doing,” co-creator Chuck Lorre says of the top-rated comedy, which features a visit from Christine Baranski as Leonard’s domineering mother in Thursday’s episode (8 EDT/PDT).A quartet of socially awkward scientist buddies – Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj – and their ingenue neighbor, Penny, embraced adulthood in their own ways and, joined by Amy and Bernadette, found new friendships, marriages and careers over 12 seasons and 279 episodes. The one-hour series finale airs May 16. “When the show began, Sheldon couldn’t touch people,” but now he’s married, Lorre says of Jim Parsons’ intellectually transcendent and socially obtuse physicist. Simon Helberg’s Howard “was this obnoxious, delusional playboy,” but “he ends up as a devoted husband and father.”More: ‘The Big Bang Theory’ jokes its way to a record as final bow nears: ‘Proud of what we did’More: ‘The Big Bang Theory’ finale taping: Math, science, hugs and tearsAmy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik), left, Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and their friends on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ have evolved to varying degrees over the CBS comedy’s record-setting 279-episode run. (Photo: Darren Michaels, AP)The actors offer their thoughts on how their alter egos have evolved: Johnny Galecki (Leonard Hofstadter)Leonard, another brilliant physicist, went from a shy, insecure young man who pined for Penny, the unattainable girl next door, to a (somewhat) more confident suitor  who married her.“I read over some of my initial notes about Leonard when we were doing the pilot and how much I thought the character was focused not just on Penny’s looks and charm but on her being the portal for him to experience life in a way he was too afraid to at the time. She completely brought him out of his shell.”More: ‘Big Bang Theory’ finale: Stars pick their favorite guests, episodes and propsMore: ‘The Big Bang Theory’: Behind-the-scenes secrets about that Shamy kiss and Howard’s mom’The Big Bang Theory’ co-creator Chuck Lorre, left, and star Kaley Cuoco share a hug on the red carpet at the hit comedy’s series wrap party on May 1, the day after the hit sitcom filmed its final episode. (Photo: Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY)Kaley Cuoco (Penny Hofstadter)Penny began as a struggling young actress, socially savvier than her neighbors but without their book smarts. She grew as a person, building a solid career as a pharmaceutical sales rep and bonding with people who seem so different on the surface.“Penny was the weird one in the group. She was more excluded than the other way around, (but) she definitely earned her spot with those guys,” Cuoco says. “She earned the right to roll her eyes and give them a hard time.” At the start, “Penny was a 21-year-old moving into her first apartment, and now she’s married and has a career. Her life has changed tremendously. But she still loves wine. That’s what stayed the same.” (“It’s a better echelon of wine” now, Galecki jokes.) More: ‘Big Bang Theory’ star Johnny Galecki and girlfriend Alaina Meyer expecting first childSpouses Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) always feel extra stress when Leonard’s mother visits on CBS’s ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ (Photo: Michael Yarish, CBS)Jim Parsons (Sheldon Cooper)Quirky Sheldon made the biggest strides in finding his humanity – with the help of his friends and scientist wife, Amy – because he had the furthest to go. It didn’t hurt professionally, either, as he and Amy are candidates for a Nobel Prize.But Parsons revels in the ways his character hasn’t changed.“My very favorite thing about Sheldon is him not getting it, not understanding when certain things are said,” he says. “I’m cleaning out my dressing room, as we all are, and I found these pieces of paper from a (Season 3) episode where I have taken Penny to the emergency room. And I remember the scene vividly, reading, ‘When was your last menstrual cycle?’ And her just glaring at me. I’ll say one inappropriate thing after another. … We’ve gotten a lot of gold from that mine of just not getting it.”Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), left, her husband, Howard (Simon Wolowitz), and his best friend, Raj (Kunal Nayyar) chat during ‘The Maternal Conclusion,’ Thursday’s episode of ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ (Photo: Michael Yarish, CBS)Simon Helberg (Howard Wolowitz)At the start, Howard acted like a player, lived with his mother and came off a little creepy. Now he’s a former astronaut married to Bernadette and the father of two children – but he can still be a little creepy.“It’s sort of like he got Febrezed. The stink is still there, but there’s something masking it,” Helberg says. “You can’t have characters just make hard, fast left turns. The luxury of 12 years is that you get to see these guys and women grow and affect each other and almost change in real time.”Kunal Nayyar (Raj Koothrappali)Astrophysicist Raj was so stunted he couldn’t speak to women unless he was drunk. Over time, he has become more confident, dating women and briefly becoming engaged to Anu.Kaley Cuoco, left, takes a group photo of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ cast and producers just after Warner Bros. dedicated the Burbank soundstage to the top-rated CBS comedy, which finishes its 12-season run in May. (Photo: Warner Bros.)”It’s great to have Raj grow, and it’ll be lovely to see how it ends,” Nayyar says. Raj and Anu now are “just kind of dating and seeing where it goes. I always think it will be fitting in the end if Raj realizes that before he’s able to love anyone, he has to love himself.”Mayim Bialik (Amy Farrah Fowler)Amy, originally closed off to romantic possibilities, flourished as she developed a relationship with Sheldon and friendships with the others, especially Penny and Bernadette.Bialik, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience, is proud of the show’s representation of women in STEM fields, but she’s happiest about its appreciation and normalization of scientists.“I love that Bernadette and Amy are both scientists who love what they do and thrive in the scientific arena, but (‘Big Bang’), to me, (has) a genderless appeal,” she says. “These characters  show there’s a full life out there. I think that resonates with a lot of kids and adults, especially if they’re in these fields.”Amy (Mayim Bialik), left, and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) are a married couple under consideration for a Nobel Prize in CBS’s ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ (Photo: Michael Yarish, Warner Bros.)Melissa Rauch (Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz)Viewers met Bernadette when she worked with Penny at the Cheesecake Factory while studying for her Ph.D. in microbiology. She has since gone on to a successful career in pharmaceuticals, marriage to Howard and motherhood.“I love how they delved into Bernadette’s motherhood journey” and her evolving feelings about having a child, says Rauch, who has a young daughter. “I think that was so beautifully handled, those very real emotions.”AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext Slide Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/tv/2019/05/08/thebigbangtheory-chuck-lorre-actors-praise-character-evolution/1126047001/

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