Thanks to the nature of the acting and entertainment industry, child actors can be a precocious bunch. Iain Armitage, who plays Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory fame in Young Sheldon, is definitely precocious, but you would be hard pressed to find anyone else his age as accomplished as he is.
Despite his young age of 11 years, Iain is already a veteran in the industry. He started acting at the age of 7, where he made his debut in the HBO series Big Little Lies as Ziggy, the son of Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley). As part of such a successful series, Iain has already worked with the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and even the legendary Meryl Streep.
With such an illustrious career that other actors can only dream about, Iain and his parents have been very careful to ensure that he still gets to do what kids do. He is fond of performing magic tricks and taekwondo. But his true passion is the theatre, and he still maintains a YouTube channel, IainLovesTheater, where he posts his thoughts and reviews on the latest Broadway shows he attends.
Ahead of the premiere of the third season of Young Sheldon this Friday (27 Sept), the show held a press junket in Sydney recently.
When asked whether he has any similarities with the notoriously eccentric character of Sheldon Cooper, Iain said, “Usually it’s like wearing socks in a bed. Or shoelaces when you’re tying them. Feeling the two materials rub against each other… I don’t like that. I don’t like socks touching carpet. I don’t like socks touching sheets.”
Below is Iain’s full media interview at the junket.
Now that you’ve played Sheldon in two seasons of Young Sheldon, do you feel quite close to the character?
I think so, yes. I now feel very comfortable being him and I can turn his voice on an awful lot. I do feel a lot closer to him than I did maybe in the first couple of episodes.
Sheldon is such a quirky character. Do you feel like you’ve got anything in common with him at all?
A couple little things. Certain things with materials that can’t touch each other — I have a couple weird things like that. Usually it’s like wearing socks in a bed. Or shoelaces when you’re tying them. Feeling the two materials rub against each other… I don’t like that. I don’t like socks touching carpet. I don’t like socks touching sheets.
That’s very Sheldon-like! Everyone’s got their quirky habits though, right?
Yeah. Especially me!
What about your castmates? Do they have any quirky habits that you can tell us about?
I’m not really sure. I think I'm the only crazy one. Everyone else is pretty normal. I have a wonderful time with everyone. Raegan [Revord, who plays Sheldon’s sister Missy] and I have such a fun time on set, we run around at lunch and stuff. Oh goodness, we have a lot of fun together. And me and Montana [Jordan], who plays the older brother [Georgie], he is so fun and so nice. He’s like a real older brother to us.
That’s pretty cool.
He’s like our jungle gym. He lets us climb on his back. And then there’s everyone else — Ms Zoe [Perry, who plays mom Mary], Daddy Lance [Barber, who plays dad George], Meemaw. Ms Annie [Potts], I call her my Meemaw [in real life]. She is my Meemaw now.
That’s so sweet. She’s like your grandma now?
Oh my goodness. Totally. Yes.
Is Annie Potts like her character in real life at all?
She’s definitely a fun, nice Meemaw. She’s amazing.
After two seasons, does your on-screen family feel a bit like a real family now?
Oh, yes, totally. We are very close to each other. Sometimes I come into work and my hair’s all messed up — I try to keep the Aerogel in so sometimes I don’t wash my hair.
Aerogel is what’s used to give Sheldon his slick hair?
Yeah. We go through trillions of cans of that in a year. I sometimes try to keep that in. If they put it on the day before then I come in and it’s all crunchy and messed up because I was sleeping. I’ll come in and one of the grips will come up and mess it up and I’ll say, “Oh, it was messed up already. You can do that.” It’s just nice. It really does feel like a family or a town or something.
Sheldon has a lot of complex scientific jargon that he has to say in the show. Is that hard to memorise?
Yes. Oh my goodness. “And here near apogee, we gimbal the engine to exert a torque, which executes a pitchover manoeuvre to flip the rocket by 180 degrees. Needless to say, we use a PID controller to minimise the dispersions of the landing site.”
That’s very impressive!
Yeah, so that one was weird. And then there was one where I had to say, “You claimed that the only way to calculate the magnetic field in QCD units is using Maxwell’s equations, but you’re completely discrediting energy density by a factor of 3.50 which, when examined closely, you realise that the square root of four times pi…” I had a whole big line about science and I forgot it.
Incredible! I’d forget that immediately.
Oh no, for me it’s always out of my brain. I pulled that from the very depths there. It’s weird, I can memorise it before and after the scene, but when I’m doing the scene I know it horribly, so I wish I could have that swapped.
You’re a big theatre fan and have your own theatre review channel on YouTube called Iain Loves Theater. Your on-screen mother Zoe Perry has a big background in theatre too. Is that something you two bond over and talk about a lot?
Ms Zoe and I, sometimes we talk about theatre. Usually not though because we’re either on set waiting to go, coming back to set to start acting or eating lunch. And in that case, we’re stuffing our faces with food.
Not so much time for talking.
Yeah. It’s like a lot of hand signals and eyebrows and stuff [to communicate].
Do you think we’ll see Sheldon face off with his academic arch-rival Paige [played by Mckenna Grace] in Season 3?
I’m going to guess yes, but I have no idea, so don’t hold me to that. I don’t want it to be like, “Iain Armitage lied because Paige was not in the third season!”
What was the best piece of advice that Jim Parsons, who played the older Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, gave you about playing the character?
Mostly Jim’s advice was about how to do the voice and a couple of his mannerisms. Things like that. Now I can just slip into his character pretty easily. It’s like a coat or something. You can just put it on and take it off.
So now it’s second nature.
Now it’s even first nature. The weird thing about acting is I can now hear my little inner Sheldon saying things like, “Why would you say that? Why? You, why did you step there? No step, step to the left.” So now I have a little tiny inner Sheldon who annoys me all the time. With acting I almost feel like the character takes over your body and I don’t really feel like I’m in control of it when I’m on set.
Do you get recognised in public a lot and asked to say lines from the show? You might not be as instantly recognisable without the bow tie and the slicked hair.
I actually usually like doing lines [for people]. Usually, people are like, “You’re not young Sheldon!” and I’m like, “Oh, you wanna bet?” I have to keep my face pale. I think seeing a kid with a face this pale is [a bit of a giveaway]. I think most kids’ faces aren’t this ghost white. So sometimes I get recognised, it kind of depends.
Season 3 of Young Sheldon premieres at 8.35pm on Friday, 27 September on Warner TV, same day as the US.
Warner TV is available on StarHub TV CH 515, and Singtel TV CH 306.