Jim Parsons Opens Up About What Led to His Big Bang Theory Exit: 'I Had This Moment of Clarity'
The actor revealed that work pressure and a series of incidents in his personal life gave him the "clarity" to step away from the hit show
In 2018, Parson penned an emotional message about the end of the beloved CBS comedy, on which he starred as Sheldon Cooper for more than a decade and ended last May. Recently appearing on the David Tennant Does a Podcast With…, Parsons addressed his exit and shared that he felt "exhausted," which came as a result of the combination of work pressure and a series of incidents in his personal life.
“It was a complicated road, as you could imagine," said Parsons, who admitted he "kind of had a suspicion in my heart" that he was going to leave when he signed to continue playing Sheldon in seasons 11 and 12 of the award-winning comedy.
But things didn't really begin to solidify in his mind until he wrapped production on season 11 in the summer of 2018 and immediately relocated to New York to appear in The Boys In The Band on Broadway.
On that following Sunday, Parsons was scheduled to film a commercial for Intel when one of his beloved dogs became "gravely ill" just as he was about to take a cab to the studio.
"He just looked so bad and I was so tired and I just started crying," he told David Tennant on the podcast. “I was like, ‘This dog’s going to die while I’m off working and I feel so bad.' "
Parsons decided to shoot the commercial and continued his work on Broadway. But the following night, the dog suffered a bad seizure, and the actor and his husband Todd Spiewak made the difficult decision to put their pet out of its pain.
“It was the scariest moment for the next couple of days because I felt like I was at the edge of a cliff," Parsons said about grieving for his dog. "I was teetering and I saw something really dark below.”
It was at that point, however, that he had a moment of "clarity."
“I was in the Saturday matinee and I kept thinking, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to get to the end of this performance,' " said Parsons. "I was just so beaten down."
“I walked out for curtain call – I had one more show that night – and I slipped and broke my foot!" he recalled.
“The bottom line was that it was a really intense summer," he said. "The dog passing away, he was 14, and Todd and I had been together for 15 years at that point, so it just was the end of an era."
"I had this moment of clarity that I think you’re very fortunate to get in a lot of ways, of going, ‘Don’t keep speeding by.' You know? ‘Use this time to take a look around.’ And I did,” said Parsons. “I was like, ‘I gotta make a move.' "
In addition to his dog's death, another personal decision led to his departure from the show.
As the shooting schedule for season 12 of The Big Bang Theory approached, the actor realized he would be age 46 by the close of filming. His father died at the of age 52, and the six-year difference made him deeply ponder his future.
“I’m not superstitious or anything like that. It was just a context thing," he told Tennant.
After returning to Los Angeles from New York, Parsons told Big Bang writers Chuck Lorre and Steven Molaro that he needed to try other things — even if he didn't know what they would be.
“It was clarity thrust upon you, as Shakespeare might have said," Parsons added about his summer in New York. “I didn’t know that I was searching for it but between the dog and the foot, I was just like ... ‘Okay. Let's take charge here,' " said Parsons.
In a post on Instagram in May 2018, Parsons addressed the end of BBT and shared a group photo taken on set with costars Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch.
“It is hard (nearly impossible, actually) to really accept that this is a picture of the first of the final 24 episodes we will shoot for The Big Bang Theory,” Parsons wrote. “I feel very fortunate that we have another 23 episodes to shoot this season because I am hopeful that with each and every one, my level of REALLY accepting this fact will sink in.”
“And while I know that they already know it, it bears repeating again and again: I am so terribly grateful for the cast in this picture and the cast members who aren’t pictured here — whether they were in one scene or many episodes along the way; you are all my playmates that I have fallen in love with and who have become a part of my life on set and off,” he continued. “You are my playmates when we don’t feel like playing but have to because it’s our job to get out there and communicate and pretend we’re these other fictional people and we look into each other’s eyes and say these words and end up creating this weird, other reality that has enriched my life more than I will fully ever understand. I will miss all of you and all of this more than I can say and more than I can know at this time.”