Actor Jim Parsons recently got candid about his decision to leave The Big Bang Theory, and his departure had a pretty emotional impetus. When it was announced that the CBS sitcom’s 12th season would be its last, fans were surprised. It was still a ratings juggernaut for CBS, and fans seemed more than happy to tune in week after week. But the show wasn’t cancelled. Instead, it was Parsons’ decision to leave the series that then spurred creator Chuck Lorre to shut the whole thing down.
But here’s the thing: 12 years is a long time to do the same network sitcom day-after-day. Parsons was 46 at the time the show ended. How much longer could he and his costars continue spinning their wheels as manchildren? Sure, the series had shown growth for the Sheldon character, and the whole ensemble really, but each week it was still basically “lol nerds are nerdy and that’s funny.”
Parsons’ decision to leave had nothing to do creatively with the series, however, as he recently explained to actor David Tennant on the Doctor Who alum’s podcast. Parsons relayed the series of events that led to his decision to step away (via TV Guide):
“Our final contract was for the last two years, but no one knew when we signed it what that would mean. I kind of had a suspicion in my heart that that was going to be it for me when I did sign that contract, but you never say never and who knows,” he said, going on to reveal that the decision to leave the show solidified the summer before they started filming Season 12. “I was exhausted, and I was really upset about, more than anything, one of our dogs was getting really at the end of his life around then.”
The actor was performing a play in New York at this time and tearfully explained that he feared his dog would die while he was at work, so he and his husband made the difficult decision to put the dog to sleep at their home. A few days later, Parsons injured himself on stage:
“It was the scariest moment for the next couple of days because I didn’t know — I felt like I was at the edge of a cliff, and I was teetering, and I saw something really dark below between the death of the dog, and I don’t know what they would have done if I couldn’t have gotten back on for the play.”
The actor also realized that his father passed away at the age of 52, and at the end of his new contract he’d be 46 years old. Did he want to keep doing this sitcom with what time he had left, or did he want to move on?
“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. I was like, ‘I gotta make a move,'” Parsons said. “And this is what I said to Chuck Lorre and Steve Molaro when I talked to them when I went back to work next year. I said, ‘If you told me that like my father, I had six years left to live, I think there’s other things I need to try and do.'”
The decision was made to end the show, and its series finale aired in May of 2019. Since that time he was able to film a main role on Ryan Murphy’s Netflix series Hollywood, for which he’s also an executive producer, and star in the upcoming musical adaptation The Boys in the Band.
You really can’t fault him for the decision he made, and I think sometimes it’s easy to forget the characters that comfort us on TV are played by real live human beings with their own interior struggles and ambitions. So yeah, Parsons made the right call.