When you have any show as massively popular as The Big Bang Theory became, it's probably not unusual for fans to feel like they know the actors they watch every week, season after season. So, it makes a lot of sense that Jim Parsons, who ended up spending 12 seasons playing the comically difficult genius Sheldon Cooper to great acclaim, was afraid to come out publicly and let everyone know that he's gay. But, Parsons took the leap in 2012, days after the Season 5 finale aired, and he's now revealed how coming out impacted his Big Bang Theory performance.
While The Big Bang Theory got off to a bit of a shaky start, by Season 5 it was solidly one of the most watched shows on network television. With that, the show's original stars (Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Kunal Nayyar, Simon Helberg, and Parsons), had become household names, and Parsons has admitted that he was worried about what coming out would mean for the show. Now, though, he's also said that opening up about his sexuality actually had a positive impact on his Big Bang Theory work, telling Attitude (via Digital Spy):
To suddenly be part of a large group that has been – and still is – maligned at times, with hateful things being said about them by other public figures – there was a sense of happiness and strength for me that I couldn't have predicted. As soon as it became a story, it made me feel very strong and I think in this day and age it only helped career-wise. I certainly have never felt it hurt my career – at all. It probably even helped me be a better actor. There's always more layers of yourself you can share.
While many people struggle with coming out to their friends and family, public figures usually have the added worry of coming out possibly ruining their careers, which adds a layer of difficulty to the decision for a lot of celebrities. Luckily, after confirming to everyone that he's gay, Jim Parsons hasn't felt any negative impact on his career, and believes that there have actually been a few benefits.
Not only does Parsons feel that being able to publicly acknowledge that he's a member of a group that's remained strong and persevered despite many difficulties has given him "happiness and strength," but he thinks coming out made him a better actor, as well. For many actors, part of digging into a character (especially one as intriguingly filled with quirks as Sheldon was) is mining your own life for emotional truths that can help you relate to whatever your character is going through. According to Parsons, after coming out, he was able to more easily do that in his work, which likely helped make Sheldon a more fully realized character as time went on.
Now, Jim Parsons is able to use that added strength, happiness and ability to reveal parts of himself through his characters in other roles. While The Big Bang Theory was still airing, he lent his talents to projects such as The Normal Heart, Hidden Figures, and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. Since leaving his four-time Emmy-winning part as Sheldon behind in May 2019, Parsons has starred in Hollywood and The Boys in the Band, so he seems to be using his increased capacity well.