“You’re turning into your mother” is often considered an insult, but not to Zoe Perry. In fact, becoming her mother — three-time Emmy Award winner Laurie Metcalf— recently became a job requirement for the 33-year-old actress.
On Sept. 25, Perry will make her debut as Mary Cooper on the new CBS series Young Sheldon, a prequel to The Big Bang Theory, where she’ll play the boy genius’ mother, a role concurrently played by Metcalf on Big Bang.
“It’s surreal,” Perry says in the current issue of PEOPLE. “When I first arrived at Young Sheldon and was meeting our crew, some people would say, ‘You’ve really got the character down.’ I said, ‘Yeah. It’s been a long study.’ ”
The high-profile gig is a big step for Perry, who most recently guest-starred on nine episodes of Scandal alongside her father, actor Jeff Perry, who plays Cyrus Beene on the ABC drama.
“It’s incredible to be going from the Shondaland universe to Big Bang creator Chuck Lorre’s,” Perry says of her career trajectory.
And her mom couldn’t be prouder.
“It’s been stressful for me because I never knew if she had that thick of a skin,” Metcalf admits of her daughter’s entrance into the world of acting. “But I’ve enjoyed watching her ride so far.”
- For more from Metcalf and Perry, check out the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now
Perry was just 4 years old when Metcalf debuted as Roseanne Barr’s sister Jackie on Roseanne in 1988.
“We worked 9 to 3 and had weekends and summers off. It was a great schedule for a parent,” Metcalf says of starring on the comedy for nine seasons.
Perry even appeared as a young version of Jackie on a few episodes, but her parents, who split when she was a toddler, had an “unwritten pact” that Perry wouldn’t go into acting until she was an adult.
“I didn’t want her to have to deal with the stress,” says Metcalf.
And that was just fine with Perry.
“I was shy,” she admits, and so she chose not to act in high school to avoid comparisons to her parents. But eventually she found herself fitting in with the “community of weirdos” in the theater department at Northwestern University.
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In 2012 Metcalf (who is also mom to sons Will, 23, and Donovan, 17, and daughter Mae, 12, with ex-husband Matt Roth) got to share the stage with Perry in the drama The Other Place on Broadway.
“I’d already done the play [Off-Broadway], and I was nervous that I would feel maternal and want to interject with suggestions,” says Metcalf.
But it quickly became clear that wouldn’t be necessary.
“She could definitely hold her own,” Metcalf says. “Suddenly I was working with a peer, and that was a great feeling.”
Now, as they play the same character on two shows at the same time, Perry says her young Mary Cooper will be a unique creation, but she’s grateful for the examples set by her mother — and of course, for the genetics.
“It won’t be too hard,” she says, smiling. “Don’t we all become our parents?”
The season 11 premiere of The Big Bang Theory and series premiere of Young Sheldon air Monday (beginning at 8 p.m. ET) on CBS. Young Sheldon will regularly air Thursdays beginning Nov. 2.