Four-time Emmy winner Jim Parsons, star of the CBS sitcom "The Big Bang Theory," returns to Broadway for the third time in four years to play God in the new comedy An Act of God. According to the producers, "The Agreement for God to use the body of Jim Parsons was brokered through Actor's Equity Association."
The play, which "will be subsidized entirely by angels," is attributed to God himself, as transcribed by David Javerbaum, a 13-time Emmy winner for his work as head writer of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and also curator of the Twitter account @TheTweetOfGod, which has over 1.75 million followers.
Playbill talked with Parsons about playing the Almighty.
What kind of research are you doing to play God?
Jim Parsons: I went to church every Sunday growing up, so I'm pretty familiar with everything I'm saying. But I did have to bone up on the difference between the words "omnipotent," "omnipresent" and "omniscient." I say them a lot in the show and I have to make sure I keep them straight. What denomination were you?
JP: Lutheran — not the strictest of churches. I mean, they have moral values. It's just not fire and brimstone.
You're joining a very exclusive club of actors who have played God. If God were to appear to you, which of these three actors would it be and why?
Alannis Morissette in "Dogma"
Morgan Freeman in "Bruce Almight"y
George Burns in "Oh, God"
JP: George, because he hit me so young. Alannis was great and Morgan may be as close to as the actual God as we're going to get, but I loved that movie when I was a kid.
If you were going to found a religion, who of anyone living or dead, real or ficitious, would be your God?
Oprah? Sponge Bob?
JP: Mine would be closer to the real thing: a nebulous, ungraspable ball of gas.
If your character Sheldon from "The Big Bang Theory" could ask God any question, what would it be?
JP: "When will I win my Nobel?"
God traditionally has a beard. Have you ever grown one?
JP: No. If I even tried, it would come in so sparse you wouldn't be able to see it from the audience.
When Fiona Shaw played Jesus's mother in The Testament of Mary on Broadway, she got naked, took a bath onstage and had a live hawk. How are you and director Joe Mantello going to top that?
JP: If we top that, it will be through the use of the two actors playing the angels. I will not be getting naked. God says "no."
Need I remind you that your "Big Bang Theory" co-star Johnny Galecki appeared naked on Broadway in The Little Dog Laughed?
[Note: "Dog" spelled backwards is "God." Coincidence? We think not.]
JP: I was briefly naked in a play Off-Broadway, but it was back in Ye Olde 2000's and no one had a camera on their cell phone.
[Note: The theatre was the Paradise Factory Theater. The Lord works in mysterious ways...]
Is it true you played a bird in your first school play?
JP: I did. I was a Kolo Kolo bird. I'm not sure if that's a real thing.
JP: All I know is that I remembered my lines and made sure I was heard — which is still sometimes all I do.
You come from a solid middle-class background. What's the strangest thing about making crazy TV money?
JP: I'm still adjusting to the idea that I'm taken care of financially. It's so touch and go as an actor; "The Big Bang Theory" was my first acting job I had where I knew the funds wouldn't be depleted afterwards. Up until then I had spent my adult life just catch-as-catch-can. These past eight seasons are still less time than the time I was struggling before it. But give me a couple of years, and I'll get used to it.
Speaking of "The Big Bang Theory," I read that Sheldon and Leonard are named after TV producer Sheldon Leonard. What's that about?
JP: I think it's [creators] Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady's tribute to someone they admired. Plus "Sheldon" and "Leonard" are pretty good nerd names. It's funny you mention because we were just filming a scene last week where Melissa Rauch, who plays Bernadette, had to call to us, "Sheldon! Leonard!" and it sounded to me like she arbitrarily shouting out Sheldon Leonard's name. You became friends with director Joe Mantello first as fellow actors –
JP: In The Normal Heart.
Now he's directing you. What's that adjustment like? Do you think, "Hey, you're not the boss of me"?
JP: When we did The Normal Heart, Joe made it very clear — no one could shut up about how good he was — that it was not the start of the second leg of an acting career. I find him as an actor and an artist irresistible. I wanted to work with him as a director almost from the moment I met him. So I started throwing plays at him that we should do together. I've been pestering him for three years. It's just like chasing love — when you let it go it comes back to you.
When Joe Mantello directed Bette Midler's one-woman show, I'll Eat You Last, Sue Mengers barely got off the couch. What's he going to do with God?
JP: My movement is extremely limited. God doesn't need much physical force to make his point.
[Note: Does this mean Bette Midler is a goddess? Discuss…]
JP: But that reminds me I need to quit memorizing my lines while pacing. Not having much blocking will make it a greater challenge to remember where I am. But it's like doing voices for animation. When robbed of the things you're used to using, it opens up a world of possibilities.
You supplied the voice for Buddy the Elf in the TV version of the musical Elf. Would you do a musical on Broadway?
JP: In a heartbeat.