Despite being a prequel of The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon will find a very different character at the center of its story.
The half-hour, single-camera comedy will follow a 9-year-old Sheldon Cooper (Big Little Lies‘ Iain Armitage) living with his family in East Texas and going to high school. Flagship portrayer Jim Parsons — who is set to executive-produce the comedy alongside creators Chuck Lorre and Steven Molaro, as well as Todd Spiewak — will also narrate the comedy as Adult Sheldon, allowing the series to feature a more innocent and hopeful version of the character while leaving the cynicism to the elder Sheldon.
“One of the things we learned going in is that Jim has a magical quality,” Lorre said at the Television Critics Association’s press tour on Tuesday. “When he addresses the character of Sheldon, he can be despicable, so difficult and hard on his best friends, and yet somehow he has a quality as a person that the audience forgives him. But when you take those same qualities and ask a 9-year-old to do that, it’s a brat, it’s not something that’s very pleasant. So we made a decision early on that we’re going to enter his life when he’s very naïve, he’s not yet become cynical. He has his idiosyncrasies but he’s a much more vulnerable character when we enter the story in 1989.”
The series — which also stars Zoe Perry, Annie Potts, Lance Barber, Raegan Revord, and Montana Jordan — takes a page from Wonder Years in that sense. “We absolutely discussed Wonder Years when we were writing,” Lorre said. “I never worked with narration before, and narration changes the way you write. So we looked for inspiration in shows that used it beautifully and no one did it better than Wonder Years.”
Young Sheldon is also different from the flagship in that it’s a single camera comedy not filmed in front of a live studio audience. It’s the first such show in Lorre’s tenure, which has been a learning curve for all involved. “The first family dinner scene in the pilot, in the time it took us to shoot that, we could’ve shot two episodes of The Big Bang Theory in front of an audience,” executive producer Steve Molaro said.
“It’s more intimate,” Lorre added. “The pacing obviously is very different. The actors aren’t having to hold for laughs, they’re not playing out, they’re working with one another. Also, we knew going in we knew we were going to be working with a cast of young children and it seemed like the more appropriate way to get them to do their best work is in a closed setting.”
Young Sheldon will have a special debut on Monday, Sept. 25 at 8:30 p.m. ET before moving to Thursdays on Nov. 2 on CBS.