'Big Bang Theory' book shows Simon Helberg wasn't 1st Wolowitz

From left to right, Mayim Bialik, Kunal Nayyar, Simon Helberg, Melissa Rauch, jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco and Johnny Galecki relax behind the scenes of "The Big Bang Theory." Photo courtesy of Kaley Cuoco
1 of 6 | From left to right, Mayim Bialik, Kunal Nayyar, Simon Helberg, Melissa Rauch, jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco and Johnny Galecki relax behind the scenes of "The Big Bang Theory." Photo courtesy of Kaley Cuoco

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Author and Glamour's Senior West Coast Editor Jessica Radloff said her new book, The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story of the Epic Hit Series, now in stores, reveals Simon Helberg was not the first actor cast as Howard Wolowitz.

"He didn't find this out until we were doing interviews for the book, which was a shock to him," Radloff told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "Most of the cast did not know this, so that was an eye opening thing to find out."


Radloff interviewed stars Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Kunal Nayyar, Melissa Rauch, Mayim Bialik and Helberg, along with creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady and other creators and crew members. Radloff learned that Kevin Sussman, who later played Stuart Bloom for 84 episodes, was the first Wolowitz.


"Due to unforeseen circumstances which are detailed in the book, Kevin wasn't able to continue with that role," Radloff said. "He basically only had it for a few hours. "

The Big Bang Theory starred Galecki and Parsons as Leonard and Sheldon, two scientists and roommates. Penny (Cuoco) moves in next door to them and throws their intellectual lives into upheaval.

Wolowitz and Raj (Nayyar) often visit Leonard and Sheldon's apartment. The show added Bernadette (Rauch) and Amy Farrah Fowler (Bialik) in later seasons.

The book also details the many female actors who auditioned for the role that became Penny. Radloff said that Lorre also had to fight to keep Nayyar in the cast.

"CBS wanted someone else to play Raj," Radloff said. "It was Chuck Lorre who intervened and said, 'Absolutely not. This is my guy. I'm sticking with him.' [Nayyar] was going to probably have to leave the United States, because I believe his visa was expiring."

Radloff said her book devotes an entire chapter to the real-life relationship between Galecki and Cuoco, who dated from the end of Season 1 through the middle of Season 3. Vanity Fair published an excerpt from that chapter, but Radloff said that chapter is even longer in the book.


"During Comic-Con in 2008 they were scurrying around," Radloff said. "They were both staying in separate hotels, so they would, in the middle of the night, run from one hotel to the next."

Galecki and Cuoco kept their relationship secret from the cast in the beginning. Radloff said the chapter also details how they continued working together after the breakup.

"Everybody says that if you're going to have an onset romance, Johnny and Kaley are the standard of how to date, how to break up, and then how to be friends the right way," Radloff said.

Helberg came up again when Radloff discussed the 2014 death of Carol Ann Susi, who played Wolowitz's mother.

"He was losing someone that was very dear to him," Radloff said. "He even developed vertigo during the time that Caroline passed. He was like, 'The room was just spinning,' and he never told anybody about it."

Radloff said the book also reminded her that The Big Bang Theory took a few seasons to find its footing. Radloff said Lorre and the writers said they struggled with finding a different voice from Lorre's previous hit, Two and a Half Men.

Writing Penny's character was a struggle at first, Radloff said. Speaking of Helberg again, Radloff said the writers regretted they went too far with Wolowitz in early seasons.


"They talk about how the character Wolowitz verged on sexual harassment," Radloff said. "You couldn't write a character like Wolowitz in today's climate."

Radloff began covering The Big Bang Theory in its fourth season as a journalist for Glamour. Radloff said that the Glamour audience responded well to the additions of Bernadette and Amy.

One year after the 2019 series finale, Radloff began conducting her interview for the book. Radloff said the format of a complete oral history book encouraged cast members to tell stories they've previously kept to themselves.

"Any time the cast did group interviews, they always wanted to let everybody else talk," Radloff said. "Jim said, 'I also wouldn't tell a lot of these stories in front of my castmates because you don't want to monopolize the conversation.'"

Some of those stories include the pay cuts Galecki, Parsons, Cuoco, Nayyar and Helberg took in Season 10. All five agreed to reduce their million dollar episodic fees to contribute to raises for Bialik and Rauch.

"They were making $900,000 an episode which is a lot of money, and they acknowledged that," Radloff said. "But it wasn't so cut and dry, as it was reported in the press at the time."


The decision to end the show was also more complicated than reported during the 2018-2019 TV season. Radloff said network CBS and studio Warner Bros. never began negotiations for a 13th season, so Parsons decided to call it himself.

"Jim decided to tell Chuck and [producer] Steve Malaro that he was ready to move on," Radloff said. "He said, 'I knew that I had to say something before CBS or Warner Bros. came to us with an offer.'"

Radloff said the prospect of a 13th season also worried Big Bang Theory creatives.

"Chuck even says, 'If we would have announced we were going for a 13th season, we would have been lambasted in the press for not knowing when to stop,'" Radloff said. "There was really no winning in that moment."

Radloff said the book also revealed Cuoco and Galecki had discussions about ending the show after Season 10. When they changed their mind, they never told the rest of the cast they were considering leaving.

Season 12 almost ended with Penny and Leonard breaking up, Radloff said. The characters had their wedding in Season 10.

"They decided the very last moment: We love these two too much. We don't want to see this," Radloff said. "Also, if we're going to have them separate, then you have to bring in new people if they're dating."


Radloff said the extensive interviews the cast and creators granted her speak to their commitment to the show. Radloff said she'd conduct two hour interviews, sometimes up to 10 per subject over two years.

"I think that was really exciting for them too, because normally they're used to just having to speak in sound bites or doing five minute interviews here or there," Radloff said. "They could really go into things that they had never been able to before."

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