The Big Bang Theory was one of the most popular programs in sitcom history with some of the highest-paid TV actors in the world. You’ll be surprised to find out what these stars look like in real life…
Simon Helberg as Howard Wolowitz
Although he “only” held a master’s degree from MIT, Howard Wolowitz eventually managed to become an astronaut and aerospace engineer. At the beginning of the series, Howard’s love life was a bit of a failure—until Penny introduced him to her coworker, Bernadette, who went on to become the mother of his children. The pair initially bonded over a mutual dislike toward their overbearing mothers.
Simon Helberg was a member of The Big Bang Theory cast since day one. Helberg ended up winning a Critics’ Choice Award for his portrayal of Wolowitz on the show. He later earned a Golden Globe Award nomination for his role as Cosmé McMoon in Florence Foster Jenkins (2016).
Sara Gilbert as Leslie Winkle
Dr. Leslie Winkle was essentially the female version of Leonard. She even wore a similar style of eyewear and a zip-up hoodie. Leslie and Leonard dated on-and-off, and she briefly pursued a relationship with Howard. She often displayed genuine animosity toward Sheldon.
Sara Gilbert got her start on Roseanne as Darlene Conner. She received two Primetime Emmy Award nominations for the role. Gilbert later played Leslie Winkle on The Big Bang Theory. Until 2019, Gilbert was married to Linda Perry.
Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper
Sheldon Cooper worked alongside Leonard as a theoretical physicist at CalTech. Despite Sheldon’s belief that his intellect was superior to everyone else’s, he often failed to recognize the nuance of social situations. Sheldon eventually became a Nobel Prizewinner alongside his wife, Amy.Jim Parsons is arguably the most successful member of The Big Bang Theory cast. Parsons has received several accolades for his performance, including four Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award. He married his husband, art director Todd Spiewak, in 2012.
Laurie Metcalf as Mary Cooper
Mary Cooper was played by yet another Roseanne alumna, Laurie Metcalf. The opposite of her wunderkind son, Mary was a devout Christian whose beliefs directly conflicted with Sheldon’s. Despite this, Mary was still around to help Sheldon in times of need
Metcalf has been an actress for over forty years. She began her career in Broadway and eventually shifted the spotlight to television, where she played Jackie Harris on Roseanne for nearly a decade. Metcalf recently received a critical claim for her performance in Lady Bird, which earned her an Oscar nomination.
Laura Spencer as Emily Sweeney
Emily Spencer, M.D. was a morbid dermatologist who loved all things macabre. She enjoyed horror movies and other gory entertainment. At one point, Raj was dating two women—Emily and Claire—at the same time. Needless to say, she wasn’t pleased to find this out.
Aside from her role on The Big Bang Theory, Laura Spencer is known for performing as Jane Bennet in the web series adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. She also played intern Jessica Warren on Bones from seasons 9 through 12. Spencer has not acted in anything since 2017.
Christine Baranski as Dr. Beverly Hofstadter
Beverly Hofstadter saw her son, Leonard, as more of a psychiatric canvas than a person. As a child, Leonard was frequently humiliated as a subject in her parenting experiments. The two had a difficult time connecting; Leonard worked for her approval his entire life.
Christine Baranski may have offered a stellar performance on The Big Bang Theory, but that’s not the only trick in her bag. She has appeared in a number of musicals, including the film adaptations of Mama Mia! and Chicago. Baranski has been nominated for a total of fiteen Emmy Awards.
Johnny Galecki as Leonard Hofstadter
Leonard Hofstadter was an experimental physicist who shared an apartment with his best friend, Dr. Sheldon Cooper. The romance between Leonard and his next-door neighbor, Penny, was a driving force in the series. Leonard’s character was named after actor Sheldon Leonard and Nobel Prize in Physics Laureate Robert Hofstadter.
Johnny Galecki was also plucked from the ’90s sitcom Roseanne, but his performance on The Big Bang Theory earned him several award nominations. In 2018, Galecki was estimated to be the second-highest-paid in the world TV actor by Forbes.
Margo Harshman as Alex Jensen
Alex Jensen briefly served as Sheldon’s research assistant on The Big Bang Theory. Instead of allowing her to help him, Sheldon plied her with busy work. Alex developed a crush on Leonard, but Leonard, refusing to betray Penny, turned her down.
Margo Harshman’s arc on The Big Bang Theory wasn’t her only acting stint. Harshman was once a regular on Disney Channel’s Even Stevens where she played Tawny Dean. Since 2013, she has played Delilah Fielding-McGee on NCIS.
Wil Wheaton as Himself
Wil Wheaton played an exaggerated version of himself on The Big Bang Theory. Sheldon was dying to meet the child star on Star Trek, only be woefully disappointed by Wil’s attitude. The two had such a rocky start that he briefly became one of Sheldon’s enemies.
Richard William Wheaton III, otherwise known as Wil Wheaton, was a child actor in Stand by Me and later graduated to a prominent role on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Wesley Crusher. These days, Wheaton does a fair amount of voiceover work. He also hosts a YouTube series called TableTop.
Sara Rue as Stephanie Barnett
Stephanie Barnett was introduced to the series as yet another one of Howard’s fruitless romantic conquests. Despite the initial success of their relationship, he ended up dumping the sassy surgical resident over text once he realized that she had slowly been moving her things into his room.
Sara Rue left The Big Bang Theory after her split with Leonard. However, the actress has been working in television ever since. She spent several years playing Brenda on Rules of Engagement and later Karen Delfs on Bones.
Brian George as Dr. V.M. Koothrappali
Raj’s hilarious father, the highly-regarded gynecologist Dr. V.M. Koothrappali, was played by Brian George. Dr. Koothrappali was usually seen over video chat because Raj’s parents lived and worked in New Delhi. The Israeli-English actor is also known for his performance as Babu Bhatt on Seinfeld.
Carol Ann Susi as Debbie Wolowitz
Although she always remained offscreen, Debbie Wolowitz was integral to the show throughout the years. Carol Ann Susi sadly passed away from lung cancer in 2014 at the age of 62. In Susi’s honor, the character passed away as well, and the actors worked to express their grief over the very real loss.
Kaley Cuoco as Penny Hofstadter
Penny, played by Kaley Cuoco, was on The Big Bang Theory since the very beginning in 2007. An aspiring actress and waitress at the Cheesecake Factory, Penny quickly became Leonard’s ongoing love interest. Kaley Cuco’s salary per episode was only topped by that of Sofia Vergara.
Aarti Mann as Priya Koothrappali
Law student Priya, Raj’s little sister, was introduced to The Big Bang Theory in the fourth season. She and Leonard attempted to keep their relationship under wraps, but they were soon found out, and Priya was sent back to India. Priya was played by Aarti Mann, who you may recognize from Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy.
Bob Newhart as Arthur Jeffries
Bob Newhart played Arthur Jeffries, also known as Professor Proton—the star of a science show that Sheldon and Leonard watched as children. The character was an homage to Mr. Wizard. In real life, Newhart is a famous comedian. He received a Primetime Emmy Award for the role.
Kunal Nayyar as Rajesh Koothrappali
Raj was the final component of The Big Bang Theory geek squad. An astrophysicist from New Delhi, Raj suffered from such terrible anxiety around women that he became unable to speak. Kunal Nayyar was the third-highest-paid TV actor in the world in 2015 and 2018, respectively.
Stephen Merchant as Dave Gibbs
Dave Gibbs, played by Stephen Merchant, was a tall British man who dated Amy after she breaks up with Sheldon. Dave expressed great interest in Sheldon and Leonard, who he considered physics superstars. In real life, Merchant is the co-writer and -director of the British version of The Office.
John Ross Bowie as Barry Kripke
Barry Kripke was a rival physicist at CalTech who maintained an on-again, off-again friendship with Sheldon. Barry suffered from a case of rhotacism—a speech impediment that caused him to pronounce “R” and “L” as a “W” sound.
Mayim Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler
Mayim Bialik joined the cast of The Big Bang Theory as Amy just in time for the guys to set up a dating profile for Sheldon. Amy was a neurobiologist—a degree that Mayim holds in real life. The pair ended up being a perfect match for one another.
Kate Micucci as Lucy
Lucy, played by actress Kate Micucci, first met Raj a singles event at Stuart’s comic book store. Similarly to Raj, Lucy suffered from severe social anxiety. She would often run out in the middle of their dates, overwhelmed with fear.
Courtney Henggeler as Missy Cooper
Sheldon’s sister Missy was a tall, beautiful woman who quickly captured the attention of Sheldon’s buddies. Missy, played by Courtney Henggeler, referred to Sheldon as “Shelly.” She loved her brother despite their differences.
Stephen Root as Dan
Stephen Root played Dan, a senior member of staff at Zangen. Dan and his coworkers were terrified of Bernadette. You might recognize Stephen Root as Milton Waddams in Office Space (1999).
June Squibb as Constance “MeeMaw” Tucker
MeeMaw, played by June Squibb, was Sheldon’s grandmother from Texas. Sheldon was MeeMaw’s favorite grandchild, whom she referred to as “Moonpie.” Sheldon was deeply protective of her. In real life, June Squibb is an Academy Award-nominated actress, known for her role in Nebraska (2013).
Brian Posehn as Bert Kibbler
Professor Bertram Kibbler was a geologist at CalTech. At first, he was interested in Amy, but after a disastrous attempt at a first outing, the two went their separate ways. Brian Posehn has worked on a variety of programs, including New Girl and Mission Hill.
Riki Lindhome as Ramona Nowitzki
Played by Riki Lindhome, Ramona Nowitzki first appeared in Season 2 as a CalTech graduate student with feelings for Sheldon. Her affection for him soon became stalkerish and got on Sheldon’s nerves. The last time Sheldon saw Ramona, her lingering obsessive tendencies drove him to propose to Amy.
Alessandra Torresani as Claire
Alessandra Torresani played Claire, a writer for a children’s science fiction series. She met Raj and Howard in the comic book store during Season 9 and soon became involved in a love triangle between Raj and Emily. In the end, Raj attempted to date them both, but the plan blew up in his face.
Melissa Rauch as Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz
Bernadette was first introduced in Season 3 when Penny offered to set her up with Howard. Although there wasn’t an immediate connection, the pair ended up typing the knot several seasons later. Bernadette quickly became a regular on the show, serving as Penny’s first female companion.
Lauren Lapkus as Denise
Lauren Lapkus played Denise, the assistant manager at Stuart’s comic book store. At first, Sheldon wasn’t fond of her, but he warmed up to her after learning that she was genuinely interested in comics. Denise and Stuart formed a relationship, eventually moving in together toward the end of the series.
Kevin Sussman as Stuart Bloom
Kevin Sussman played Stuart Bloom, the owner of the comic book stores which became a frequent haunt for the guys in Season 2. Although he wasn’t a central member of the group, he still popped up fairly often. Kevin Sussman had a decorated acting career far before he joined the cast of The Big Bang Theory, having performed on shows like Ugly Betty and Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp.
Lindsey Kraft as Marissa Johnson
Marissa Johnson, played by Lindsey Kraft, was the wife of Penny’s ex-boyfriend, Zack Johnson. The pair met with Leonard and Penny and asked Leonard to father their child due to Zack’s infertility. Lindsey Kraft has appeared on Living Biblically and Grace and Frankie.
Melissa Peterman as Brenda Sparks
Melissa Peterman plays Billy’s mother Brenda Sparks on Young Sheldon. She works at the bowling alley frequented by Sheldon’s MeeMaw. She is a deeply unpleasant person whose personality clashes with Mary’s.
Rati Gupta as Anu
Raj’s father set him up with Anu, played by Rati Gupta, after Raj asked him to arrange a marriage for him. Anu worked as a hotel concierge. Although the two considered marriage, fate got in the way, and Anu eventually left for a job in London.
Mark Harelik as Eric Gablehauser
Mark Harelik played Eric Gablehauser, the head of the Physics Department who worked as the group’s boss at CalTech. When he was first employed by the university, he fired Sheldon for insulting his intelligence. Eventually, Sheldon is rehired after Gablehauser expresses a romantic interest in Sheldon’s mother.
Alice Amter as Mrs. Koothrappali
Mrs. Koothrappali was played by Alice Amter, Raj’s mother who lived in India. Mrs. Koothrappali was desperate for her son to get married. In Season Eight, she divorced Mr. Koothrappali, and their relationship becomes malicious.
Keith Carradine as Wyatt
Keith Carradine played Wyatt, Penny’s father. Wyatt always rooted for Penny and Leonard’s relationship because he wanted his gradnchildren to “grow up in a house without wheels.” Wyatt and Leonard maintained an amicable relationship throughout the series.
Brian Patrick Wade as Kurt
This tall, intimidating bodybuilder was played by Brian Patrick Wade. Kurt was Penny’s ex-boyfriend at the beginning of the series. He appeared on various occasions throughout the show as an antagonist toward Leonard.
Isabel May as Veronica Duncan
Isabel May plays Veronica Duncan on Young Sheldon, a popular and “easy” girl who goes through a “Sin House” on Halloween and becomes a devout Christian. Georgie is obsessed with her and often does anything he can to be close to her.
Casey Sander as Mike Rostenkowski
Casey Sander played Mike Rostenkowski, Bernadette’s father and a no-frills retired policeman. Mike loved his daughter, but he often bullied everyone else and was rude to everyone around him. Howard and Mike didn’t always see eye to eye, but they got along well enough.
Joshua Malina as President Siebert
President Siebert was played by Joshua Malina. Siebert presided over CalTech for the duration of the series. Siebert and Sheldon had a running gag where Sheldon would frequently visit or call Siebert in the middle of the night for information.
Brian Thomas Smith as Zack Johnson
Zack Johnson, played by Brian Thomas Smith, was a dim-witted but well-meaning jock-type who dated Penny a myriad of times after her second break-up with Leonard. Zack’s stupidity was off-putting to Penny, often driving her back into the arms of Leonard. Brian Thomas Smith has appeared in many commercials over the years for popular brands like State Farm, Chevrolet, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut.
Wyatt McClure as Billy Sparks
Wyatt McClure plays Billy Sparks in Young Sheldon. Sparks was mentioned as one of Sheldon’s childhood bullies in The Big Bang Theory. In Young Sheldon, Sparks is shown to be simple-minded but still good-natured.
Wallace Shawn as Dr. John Sturgis
Dr. John Sturgis is played by Wallace Shawn, who you might recognize from hits like The Princess Bride (1987) and My Dinner With Andre (1981). Dr. Sturgis, a physics professor at East Texas Tech, is initially Sheldon Cooper’s pen pal. Sheldon is thrilled when Sturgis starts dating his grandmother.
Regina King as Janine Davis
Janine Davis was played by Regina King, who rose to fame for her roles in Jerry Maguire (1996) and the crime show Southland. Janine worked in HR at the university. She develops a rock relationship with the guys, who continuously managed to offend her.
Mckenna Grace as Paige Swanson
Paige Swanson, played by Mckenna Grace, is a 10-year-old child prodigy who turns out to be the only person smarter than Sheldon. Sheldon becomes jealous when Dr. Sturgis begins paying attention to her. Unlike Sheldon, Paige is very sweet with excellent social skills.
Robert Wu as Tam Nguyen
Tam Nguyen appears in both Young Sheldon and The Big Bang Theory. The Vietnamese-American is Sheldon’s only friend in Young Sheldon. In The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon and Tam have not spoken for 20 years because Tam did not move to California with Sheldon.
Swati Kapila as Ruchi
Ruchi, played by Swati Kapila, was a new coworker of Bernadette’s at Zangen. Raj and Stuart both took an interest in Ruchi, but Raj ultimately pursued a physical relationship with her. Ruchi dumped Raj after finding out that he behaved in a way that she did not appreciate.
Craig T. Nelson as Dale Ballard
Craig T. Nelson plays Coach Dale Ballard on Young Sheldon, a baseall coach who ends up dating MeeMaw after her breakup with Dr. Sturgis. Craig T. Nelson is known for his work on the show Coach, where his role as Hayden Fox earned him a Primetime Emmy Award.
Billy Gardell as Herschel Sparks
Billy Gardell plays Herschel Sparks, the husband of Brenda Sparks and father of Billy and Bobby Sparks. Hercshel owns and operates his own garage. He is often bossed around by his wife.
Judd Hirsch as Dr. Alfred Hofstadter
Judd Hirsch played Leonard’s father, Dr. Alfred Hofstadter, on The Big Bang Theory. An anthropologist who was miserably married to Beverly, Alfred eventually struck up a relationship with Mary Cooper, Sheldon’s mother. Toward the end of the series, he and Beverly agreed to be civil for Leonard’s sake.
Ian Scott Rudolph as Captain Sweatpants
Captain Sweatpants was played by Ian Scott Rudolph. A middle-aged bald man whose signature outfit was gray sweatpants and a Captain America t-shirt, Captain Sweatpants frequented the guys’ favorite comic book store. He is friends with Wil Wheaton and another comic book store misfit, Lonely Larry (Owen Thayer).