‘Young Sheldon’ Stars Iain Armitage and Annie Potts on Jim Parsons’ Finale Return and the Show’s Surprise End: ‘We Were Completely Ambushed by This’

‘Young Sheldon’ Stars Iain Armitage and Annie Potts on Jim Parsons’ Finale Return and the Show’s Surprise End: ‘We Were Completely Ambushed by This’

Annie Potts is no stranger to series finales, having experienced several through the years (“Designing Women,” “Any Day Now” and “GCB,” to name a few). But there’s something different about the end of “Young Sheldon,” the “Big Bang Theory” prequel that concludes on May 16. “I still don’t understand why they canceled it,” she says. “It just seemed like such a stupid business move.”

Potts, who plays saucy Connie “MeeMaw” Tucker on “Young Sheldon,” says she remains puzzled by CBS’s decision to end the series — even though it’s still a strong ratings performer for the network.

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Nonetheless, “Young Sheldon” did wrap production on its seventh and final season last week. A few days later, Variety talked with Potts, and co-star Iain Armitage (the socially awkward 14-year-old genius Sheldon Cooper), about how they’re feeling about the show’s end. The duo also shared their reaction to Jim Parsons’ return as the adult Sheldon in the finale episode and previewed this week’s episode, “A Fancy Article and a Scholarship for a Baby.”

You wrapped shooting the series last week. How are you both feeling?

Annie Potts: It’s been really, really, really emotional. I mean, it’s been half of Ian’s life, and it’s been a 10th of mine, but at 70, that feels significant. And, you know, it’s a little village that we have, and we’ve all taken care of each other and raised each other up. There will be a grievous hole in my life. There’s no question about it. It’ll get easier. Grief does, loss does.

Iain Armitage: It’s definitely hard to end and getting to work with such incredible people will always make it harder. I feel so lucky for seven wonderful years, but at the same time, I’m very excited because I get to come back out [to Los Angeles] in June. I’ll get to hang out with Annie, I’m getting my pilot’s license and I’m going to get to give tours at Warner Bros., which will be wonderful.

Annie, you’ve said goodbye to shows in the past. Does it get easier?

Potts: This one was especially hard because I was completely unprepared. I was shocked. I mean, the No. 1 show on network TV, No. 1 on Netflix. We’re, I think, all that people watch on TikTok besides a couple of recipes for pasta. It just seemed like such a stupid business move. Forgive me, but I don’t know. If a show is starting to drag or lag or have a lack of stories or whatever, then you kind of see it coming. We were totally ambushed by this. I was, anyway.

Armitage: I totally get what Annie means. It’s also just hard in a really weird way that I can only really see if I step back and try and take a global view, which is hard. I mean, I’m not going to get to see Annie Potts every day. This is a real loss for me. More than anyone. I definitely think we could have done a lot more.

Backing up, Annie, when you came in starting with Episode 3 of the series to play MeeMaw, was she somebody you understood right off the bat or did it take you a while to get in her shoes?

Potts: No, the shoes fit from the get-go. I grew up in the south, so these kinds of women are well known to me. And of course, I studied them. I lived with them, literally, so it was super easy. This is not a character that’s a stretch for me.

Armitage: If we’re being honest, Miss Annie’s so talented. No character is a stretch for her. She could do it any way.

Iain, Jim Parsons worked with you early on to help you find Sheldon. Do you remember anything specifically that he said that clicked with you understanding the character?

Armitage: Mostly, just teaching me how to do the accent and the way Sheldon looks at the world. Saying that Sheldon seeks order and has a hard time with social interaction, how it can sort of be disordered. For Sheldon, as incredible and genius as he is, it doesn’t come that easy for him. He can do all this wonderful stuff and he’s got such an incredible brain, but some sentiments for him can be completely alien. It is pretty fascinating and an interesting juxtaposition for both a character and a person.

What was it like to have Jim and Mayim on the show in the finale as grown-up Sheldon and his wife, Amy?

Armitage: It was incredible. It felt like a reunion, getting to see them back together. They know each other so well and act so well together. They knew each other’s cues, which was wonderful to see. I think Mister Jim and Miss Mayim both quite enjoyed it, so that’s nice.

Was it surreal watching him do Sheldon now after so many years?

Armitage: It was definitely surreal. I think it was weird and cool and interesting. He said that in a good way, he felt like a guest on our set. I was happy that it didn’t feel too weird or out of the ordinary for him. That’s all I can ask for.

Sheldon’s future, choosing a grad school, is the focus of the episode airing Thursday. What’s going through Sheldon’s mind with various schools wanting him?

Armitage: At the start of the episode, he’s pretty content with his parents (Mary and George Sr., played by Zoey Perry and Lance Barber) handling the whole thing. But eventually he starts to feel pulled in different directions a bit too far, stretched between Doctor Sturgis (Wallace Shawn) and Doctor Linklater (Ed Begley, Jr.) trying to pressure him to stay at East Texas Tech. And then eventually he gets to the point where he’s losing sleep over it. For a person like Sheldon, he wants to make the right decision, so he tries to assign mathematical value to each one and statistically determine which is best.

Annie, in the previous episode, MeeMaw’s gambling room was shut down and she’s now wearing an ankle monitor and confined to home. Is she going the straight and narrow moving forward or…?

Potts Well, the show ends before we know that, but I don’t imagine that her stripes are gonna change much.

Armitage: I think the nice thing about having ‘Big Bang’ as sort of a prequel to us is we get to see some of these characters we love [on that show]. We even get to see MeeMaw on ‘The Big Bang Theory(played by June Squibb). We get to know that she and Sheldon are still so close and have such a nice relationship. It’s cool, because in a weird way, even though this show is ending, it’s comforting to know there’s a whole other series with twelve more seasons to watch.

We now have fans of our show in our own right, people who haven’t even seen ‘Big Bang’ yet, which is kind of wonderful, because now they can go back and watch from the beginning of ‘Big Bang’ and get to see these characters we love so much from the very, very beginning, not from our very beginning. In ‘Big Bang,’ there’s an episode where MeeMaw comes and she says she’s going to suss Amy (Bialik) out when she hears that they’re together. But I agree with the Annie that [MeeMaw’s] stripes won’t change much.

Potts: I love it.

Also in this week’s episode, the whole cast is in a living room scene talking over Sheldon’s future much like how everyone gathers for the dinner table scenes, which are a show staple. What’s it like having everyone together for those scenes?

Potts: Since we knew in advance that we would be ending, we certainly relished them. When there’s that many people in a scene, it takes a long time because everybody’s got to get shot from everybody’s perspective. So, the camera goes around and around, and it can be quite tedious. And certainly, when the children were little, they like (*mimics fidgety movements*). But the past few months we’ve just been relishing our time together, and especially those scenes, so there was no tedium about it.

Armitage: It’s always fun to film those scenes. They can definitely be long and so tedious. I think having to go around the entire dinner table, get every camera angle can be a bit much, but we always have so much fun doing it.

When you say it takes a long time, how long is long for a dinner table scene, for example?

Armitage: Maybe five, six, 7 hours. It can be a long time for a one-, two-, three- or four-minute scene. It’s hours and hours and hours of work and that’s not even counting cooking the food and dressing our sets. There’s so much work done by so many people. And I think that’s another interesting part of getting to work on a show like this, there’s so many jobs that so many people do. I feel like a lot of fans of the show don’t even get to appreciate it because you don’t get to see what they do. You get to see it on screen but we don’t get to fully give them the credit that I think they so deserve but we have a wonderful crew.

Iain, you’ve shared so many scenes with Ed Begley, Jr. and Wallace Shawn, including in this week’s episode. What’s been working with them been like?

Armitage: They’re both so incredible. They’re some of my favorite people to work with. Getting to have another scene with them felt like a tour de force of our relationship as actors in our relationship in the show. It was nice to kind of show off how well our characters know each other and the kind of relationship we have. And there’s a lot of funny little jokes and callbacks in that episode that I love.

Any favorite storylines from the series that come to mind that we’re particularly fond of?

Potts: I loved it when they had me driving him to college and back because, as you do in life, when you get the kid in the backseat, it’s always good talk time. I really enjoyed those.

Armitage: Mine’s another one with Miss Annie. I love getting to play video games with her so much. I think it was ‘Quest of Adeera.’ They made up an entire fake video game that we got to play together, and it was just such a fun scene to film with Miss Annie. And then also, my grandmother — I hesitate even to say ‘real grandmother’ because Miss Annie Potts feels like a real grandmother to me — but my biological grandmother was there on set that day and she loved getting to see me and Annie do our thing. It was a lot of fun. I’ll always have fun memories of that, but honestly, I’ve had so much fun throughout the whole thing.

Just how many tissues are we going to need for the series finale when it airs on May 16?

Potts: A box of tissues…with a roll of paper towels from the kitchen.

Armitage: Backup, if it plays out right? I’m hoping so.

Young Sheldon” airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS with seasons available to stream on Netflix, Paramount+ and Max.

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