Jim Parsons, Cheyenne Jackson on playing straight with Mayim Bialik: 'She does make it very easy'

Bill Keveney, USA TODAY
·3 min read
Kat (Mayim Bialik), right, receives a pleasant surprise when friend and college crush Max (Cheyenne Jackson), left, returns to town to work at a bar run by Carter (Julian Gant) in the new Fox comedy, 'Call Me Kat.'
Kat (Mayim Bialik), right, receives a pleasant surprise when friend and college crush Max (Cheyenne Jackson), left, returns to town to work at a bar run by Carter (Julian Gant) in the new Fox comedy, 'Call Me Kat.'

Jim Parsons and Cheyenne Jackson agree: It's a breeze to play a straight romantic interest, or at least a potential one, when acting opposite Mayim Bialik.

The two actors, who are gay, now have that in common. Parsons' Sheldon and Bialik's Amy fumbled through a sweet and funny love story on CBS comedy "The Big Bang Theory" for nine seasons, while Jackson ("American Horror Story") plays a former college crush who re-enters the life of Bialik's title character, a 39-year-old single woman who owns a cat café, in the new Fox comedy, "Call Me Kat," premiering Jan. 3 (8 EST/PST). Parsons and Bialik are executive producers.

Representation and identity in casting are serious issues in TV and film, but the topic came up playfully during a Zoom chat Wednesday with the show's cast and producers when one reporter facetiously asked Jackson about taking the role of Max from "marginalized" straight actors.

: Hollywood's casting dilemma: Should straight, cisgender actors play LGBTQ characters?

Sheldon (Jim Parsons), left, and Amy (Mayim Bialik) awkardly dated and eventually married as part of a central love story over nine-plus seasons of 'The Big Bang Theory.'
Sheldon (Jim Parsons), left, and Amy (Mayim Bialik) awkardly dated and eventually married as part of a central love story over nine-plus seasons of 'The Big Bang Theory.'

(Concerns more often focus on straight and cisgender actors playing LGBTQ characters, which can take opportunities away from LGBTQ actors and raise questions of authenticity.)

After a laugh over "marginalized," the reporter had a tongue-in-cheek followup, asking Jackson how difficult it is to play a straight character, one who is a potential romantic interest.

At that point, Bialik decided to stand up for herself. "Look who he's playing opposite! Come on!"

Parsons recalled Bialik's appeal from their time on "Big Bang": "She does make it very easy."

Kat (Mayim Bialik), left, and Phil (Leslie Jordan) work together in Kat's cat cafe in the new Fox comedy, 'Call Me Kat.'
Kat (Mayim Bialik), left, and Phil (Leslie Jordan) work together in Kat's cat cafe in the new Fox comedy, 'Call Me Kat.'

He then offered his thoughts on LGBTQ actors playing straight characters and vice versa.

"As far as Cheyenne goes, that was just who came in (for casting), and everyone agreed was the right person for the part," he said. "In all seriousness, I feel – I was going to say swings both ways, so I'll say it – that a straight person is welcome to play a gay character, as they've done many times and many times very well. Sexuality is its own weird thing. Relating to another human being, sex is part of it, but it's only one part of it."

Jackson echoed Parsons. "It's very, very easy to fall in love with Mayim, but really everything is there for me" with the role, he said. "The writing, these characters are so richly drawn and honest. This show really hinges on believing Mayim, and she is this magical human. She is just this person who has all the colors of the rainbow."

At that point, the gathering became a Bialik admiration society, with co-stars Leslie Jordan, Kyla Pratt and Julian Gant offering praise of the show's central star. Then co-star Swoosie Kurtz, who plays Kat's mom, brought it back to the initial theme.

"I mean, I'm in love with Mayim, and I'm not gay," she said.

"I turn (straight) people gay. I turn gay people straight," Bialik replied. "I've got it all!"

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mayim Bialik on praise from co-stars Jim Parsons, Cheyenne Jackson