Mayim Bialik has worn a lot of hats* in her life: child star, neuroscientist, spokeswoman, and author of Beyond the Sling, a guide to attachment parenting but she is perhaps most well-known for her role as one of the stars of the critically acclaimed comedy The Big Bang Theory. As a fan of hers since way back in 1991, I was thrilled recently to have the chance to chat with Mayim about her TBBT neurobioligist character, Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler, and being a scientist in real life.
So, without further ado, the interview...
I love your role on The Big Bang Theory and the dynamic between you, Kaley Cuoco as Penny, and Melissa Rauch as Bernadette. You three have added a whole new comedic dimension to the show. Was it difficult taking it in a new direction after several seasons of it being a (mostly) boys club?
As an actor, I kind of take it one episode at a time and don't think about the "arc" of the show or anything like that. I stay really in the moment and just do what's in front of me! I think the material is fantastic and I love that I get to have fun in the boy and "girl" scenes too since my character is so in the middle!
So, what's your assessment of Amy's feelings for Penny? Is it merely a girl crush or does she wish she was dating Penny instead of Sheldon?
Amy is I think proudly bi-curious! The female form is beautiful, as is the male and Amy knows that. Nothing wrong with that, we are all a mix of feminine and masculine in my opinion as a neuroscientist!
You've become a geek icon in your role on TBBT with fans dressing up as your character and creating Amy Farrah Fowler fan art. What has the experience been like for you? Any funny or crazy stories you can share?
I think it's profoundly amazing. I love being the geek revealed as the princess-type, and I think seeing people dressed as AFF for Halloween (and even Purim, the Jewish dress-up holiday) is the most flattering thing ever. Us as the "Firefly" cast made me laugh because I used to watch that show!
You're the only person on set that actually has a PhD in a science-related field with the exception of some of the guest stars, most recently Stephen Hawking. Have you ever corrected some of the science details in the script or pitched some of the story lines?
I don't pitch stories, but I do let them know if they pick a part of the brain that does something other than what they think it does. Our writers are overall brilliant and we have a physics consultant, Dr. David Salzberg, so it's a really smart bunch over here, they don't need me too much for help!
Who has been your favorite guest star so far?
Speaking of your doctorate, what was it like earning a PhD in neuroscience, a male-dominated field? Were there any challenges, misconceptions, or other difficulties you had to overcome?
It was harder for me as a teenager and kid to get motivated in science, but by the time you get to grad school it's easier because a lot of the awkwardness is gone. I think for women, having kids and parenting a specific way in academia is really a challenge, and even moreso in the sciences. But overall, I think it was harder being a former child star in college at all that had a lot for me to overcome and prove myself about.
You're now the spokesperson for Texas Instrument calculators and starring in a commercial for Old Navy, two wildly different brands, which is just awesome. What do you think precipitated this? Could it be partly due to the rise in geek culture?
Maybe. The Old Navy thing was a 90s throwback, and was super fun. The TI thing is really close to my heart, and I have had a TI calculator since I was 15. I still own the TI-82 and my husband and I met in calculus class at UCLA each holding one in our hands. Doesn't get much nerdier than that! Our poor kids: two sets of nerd genes. The world better look out!
You can read more from Mayim via her Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as her new book on attachment parenting!
*I couldn't help myself. I'm sorry.**
**Who am I kidding? I'm not actually sorry. One of my favorite gifts when I turned 13 was a floppy flower hat just like Blossom's!