Fans of CBS’s ‘The Big Bang Theory‘ have long debated whether Jim Parsons’ character, the ultra nerdy, socially inept, Sheldon (Jim Parsons), has Asperger’s Syndrome. Mayim Bialik, who plays his equally awkward girlfriend Amy Farrah Fowler, is uniquely qualified to weigh in on the topic.
The actress, who is still best known for starring on the 1990s sit-com ‘Blossom‘ when she was a teenager, has a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA. In fact, she studied Autism Spectrum Disorders.
According to Bialik, Sheldon’s case is complex. “OCD was the topic of my thesis when I did my doctorate. I think that Sheldon would definitely be on the spectrum, as we say. I actually don’t think that I would give him the diagnosis of Asperger’s. I would give him Obsessive Compulsive probably moderate to severe, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, possibly Social Anxiety Disorder… but not pure Asperger’s as we know it.”
She thinks that Amy truly is a female version of Sheldon. “I would classify Amy and Sheldon as pretty much the same psychiatric profile… I think, to me, she seems weirder because she’s female and she gets to act in situations that lend themselves to a different set of weirdness. Trying to bond with females is very different culturally than male bonding. But I think clinically probably the same diagnosis would apply.”
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In this week’s episode, “The 21-Second Excitation” (Thursday, 8/7c), Amy finds herself far outside her comfort zone. Bialik explains, “I get to try to have a girl’s night with Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and with Bernadette (Melissa Rauch). Picture a girl’s slumber party and all the things girls might like to do and then picture Amy Farrah Fowler there.” The episode is a milestone for both Amy and Bialik. “[It]was the first time I actually got to go out on my own. I think I have one scene with Jim. All the other scenes are not with Jim, so that was really scary because I look to him for my line readings because I want to still emulate him in a lot of my delivery. But it’s good. I guess it’s a sign that my character can have her own legs and it’s a really, really funny episode.”
Bialik’s real-life working relationship with Parsons seems to have a few things in common with Sheldon and Amy’s. “Obviously he has such a presence. He’s very striking. He’s very magnetic. I think he’s quite attractive, actually, the way he portrays this character… He’s a true delight to work with. I think he and I function very similarly as actors. He’s very cerebral and very intellectual in his approach. He thinks a lot.”
Bialik admits she shares her character’s lack of pop cultural awareness. “I had never seen the show before I auditioned for it. All I knew was what I Googled the night before my audition.”