What's the opposite of Bazinga?
In a new oral history of The Big Bang Theory, which ran on CBS for 12 seasons from 2007 to 2019, the cast and crew of the hit sitcom—including stars Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki, Kunal Nayyar and creator Chuck Lorre—reflected back on Jim Parsons' surprising decision to leave the show.
"I was shocked. We were just blindsided that day," Johnny, who played Leonard Hofstadter, said, according to People. "And not necessarily shocked by Jim's decision, but that he hadn't had that conversation with his castmates first to prepare us. So yes, it could have been handled better. We're a family; have a conversation. And I don't even disagree with how Jim felt, because in many ways, I felt the same way. I just disagreed with how it was managed."
Johnny said it was gut-wrenching to see his fellow castmates "emotionally crumble" at the news, which was a memory echoed by his boss.
"There was a lot of crying in the room—Kaley, in particular," Lorre recalled. "It was a blow. And there was no way to soften it by giving them a heads-up. I didn't know any other way to do it."
Kaley, who played Penny and has gone on to earn three Emmy nominations for producing and starring in HBO Max's The Flight Attendant, was initially concerned about what it meant for her career.
"We cried for hours that day," Kaley said. "We thought we were going to do another year, so all of the sudden your life kind of flashes before your eyes. I looked at Chuck and said, 'What are we going to do?' I couldn't breathe. It just felt like a death, but also a new horizon for everybody as well."
Kunal, who played Raj Koothrappali, said he experienced "a very physical reaction in my body" when Jim, who won four Emmys for his portrayal of Sheldon Cooper, made his exit known.
"It's something I've only experienced once before," he said. "I felt a giant weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I don't mean this in a positive or a negative way. I mean this in an absolute honest way, that something within me was released. At that moment I said goodbye."
Despite their mixed feelings, Johnny insisted he and the cast were not interested in moving ahead in their co-star's absence.
"I don't think I could have performed in the way I wanted to, or would want to, if we did continue," he said. "I was done myself, I think. I didn't really know how to serve the character or the great writing anymore. But none of us—the actors, writers—were comfortable with doing the show without one of us. And we absolutely would not continue on without Jim."
The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story of the Epic Hit Series is available now.