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TCA17: Why ‘Young Sheldon’ Is Turning Chuck Lorre Into a ‘Nervous Wreck’

Fall entry is based on early life of 'The Big Bang Theory's Sheldon Cooper

Complete Coverage: 2017 TCA Summer Press Tour

CBS’ new sitcom, Young Sheldon, which tells the story of The Big Bang Theory’s brilliant but difficult Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), marks creator Chuck Lorre’s first foray into the world of single-camera comedy. And it’s freaking him out.

“I’m a nervous wreck,” Lorre told critics and reporters at the TCA summer press tour on Tuesday. “It’s an entirely different animal. It’s a wholly different way to tell a story and the working process is very different. It’s much slower. But the end result is something to be proud of, really. I love the pilot.”

Young Sheldon stars nine-year-old Iain Armitage as young Sheldon Cooper, and he has a young sister and friends. Working with kids was one of the main reasons CBS and the studio behind the show, Warner Bros., chose to shoot it in the single-camera format.

“We knew going in that we were going to be working with a cast of young children, and it seemed like the more appropriate way for them to get the best work, to do the best work, was in a closed setting where they had the time to develop these characters,” said Lorre.

The show also is different from anything Lorre has ever done in that it has narrative voiceover, provided by Parsons, who's also an executive producer on the show.

"We absolutely discussed Wonder Years when we were writing," said Lorre. "I never worked with narration before, and narration changes the way you write. We looked for inspiration to shows that used it beautifully. Nobody did it better than Wonder Years."

Getting Young Sheldon to air was largely dependent on finding the right young actor, and Lorre, Parsons and executive producer Steven Molaro all said they found him in Armitage, who starred earlier this year in HBO’s Big Little Lies.

To audition for the part, which was cast before Big Little Lies aired, Armitage’s mother sent along a video of him reading lines shot on her iPhone.

“We looked at it and went, ‘Oh my God. We can't possibly be this lucky. He was just spectacular,” said Lorre. “Obviously, if we don’t find an actor of Iain’s caliber, we don’t proceed. There’s no show.”

Lorre and crew also seem to be blessed by synchronicity in other ways as well: Young Sheldon’s mother is being played by the daughter of the actress who plays adult Sheldon’s mother on The Big Bang Theory: Zoe Perry, daughter of Laurie Metcalf.

“Genetics do a lot for me,” Perry said. “This is my voice. Certain mannerisms just come with the territory. Upon knowing I was going to audition for this, I re‑watched all the episodes that she was in, because I just wanted to be sure that I was in the same ballpark as her.” 

“But I think what's so wonderful and a privilege to play Mary Cooper at this age is that we don't know her at that stage of her life yet. So I think it provides me a little bit of flexibility. And also, the kids are so much younger, and my approach is different with them at that age.”

Interestingly enough, Lorre had worked with Metcalf and Perry before, but it was when he was working on Roseanne, Metcalf was playing Roseanne’s younger sister and Perry was running around the sound stage as a small child.

Said Lorre: “It was pretty clear there was a spectacular actress waiting there. But when she came in to read for the part of Mary, again, we were flabbergasted. It was like this can't ‑‑ this is beyond good luck to have an actress who is of this caliber and has clearly mastered her craft but also has the sensibilities that we've come to see Laurie do for years on Big Bang. So it was a tremendous piece of good luck for the show.”

Young Sheldon premieres Monday, Sept. 25 at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS.