Penthouse Retrospective

by Kara Wahlgren Originally Published: May, 2010

Johnny Galecki | (Almost) 10 Years Ago This Month

Who knew? Ironic that I might catch mono playing Leonard.

Seriously. So what’s coming at the end of this season?

I really don’t know. I’m not trying to be enigmatic — I just have no idea. They keep us in the dark. We finish our live studio taping on Tuesday night, we take our bow, and they hand us a warm manila envelope with the next morning’s script. That’s generally the first we know of anything.

Well, do you want to see Leonard and Penny stay together?

Definitely. That was one of the reasons I was interested in the role to begin with. But no matter what they call it, no matter what the banner over their heads is — any sort of exploration of that flirtation is new to me, so I couldn’t be happier.

What advice about girls would you give to Leonard?

The same advice I’m trying to adopt myself, which is that you just do best to shut the fuck up much of the time. I think men, by nature, are fixers, and a lot of the time women just need to vent. You don’t have to offer up solutions on how to deal with the coworker she’s not getting along with. Just shut the hell up and let her vent.

I’ve read rumors that Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco have been doing some Method acting.

That’s very funny. I’ve read those things, too. I would do my best to dispel those rumors if they didn’t make me look so damn good.

How do you keep your personal life private when you’re on a hit show? There’s really not much dirt on you.

That’s not what my mother says. But my lifestyle is conducive to that kind of privacy, because I don’t often leave the house. I don’t want to claim to have it all figured out and be stunned on TMZ the next day. From my perspective right now — and I might eat these words at another point in my career — it seems like you need to really go out of your way to create that kind of spectacle for yourself. You know where to go, or where not to go. Clubs aren’t the only places that serve a beer. If you need a sandwich, you don’t have to go to Spago.

You did have a little drama a few years ago with a paternity suit, but it didn’t get much attention. The gossip magazines don’t seem to want to crucify you.

Well, that’s a good thing. It was a very sad affair that has to do with someone who’s obviously very unstable. There’s just not much that’s entertaining about it. [Galecki says that, to date, he’s never met the woman involved in the paternity suit, which was eventually dropped.]

Your first major roles were alongside a couple of tabloid magnets: Chevy Chase and Roseanne Barr. Do you feel like you can handle anyone in Hollywood after that?

They were both fantastic to me. Those are the stories you don’t hear. Rose was always incredible to us younger folks on the show — she just had a very specific vision of what she wanted to say and how she wanted to say it. And Chevy was amazing. During the lunch hours, he wouId take me over to the sets of Ghostbusters 2 and Harlem Nights. I was hanging out with Redd Foxx and Bill Murray when I was 13. It was really amazing.

I have to defend the people in this business. I’ve had these deeply profound — and unfortunately ephemeral — families in every job I’ve had. It’s those parasites who work in the shadows that you’ve got to look out for.

Did you learn anything from Chevy or Roseanne that sticks with you today?

I called Roseanne when Big Bang got picked up, to get her blessing and ask her advice. I realized I was going to be on billboards and on the sides of buses. And one piece of advice she gave was, “Never trust a journalist with an English accent.”

That actually sounds like good advice. Now, before Big Bang Theory, you did a Broadway play, The Little Dog Laughed. How did you prep for the full-frontal scene?

I really wish I had a wittier answer to this, but you know, it’s just acting. A little bit chillier than when you’re clothed, but it’s just acting. I was disappointed in how anticlimactic it was.

Anticlimactic — is that a famous Johnny Galecki pun?

No. The actual prep for the gig was fascinating. I played a call boy, and hanging out with those fellows was amazing. But taking your pants off is just taking your pants off. I had great hopes that it would be fantastically liberating, but… just part of the job.

Oh, well. Did you pick up anything in theater that you’ve carried over into movies?

Oh, everything. I still use the film crew as an audience. It helps me gauge if I’m convincing or not. If the crew believes that I truly am depressed or heartbroken or drunk or whatever the scene requires, then I know that I’m on base.

What do you hope you’ll be doing in five or ten years?

Wow, that’s a good question. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately — it’s a difficult thing to answer, because I really only have those specific wishes when things aren’t working out. And I’m hard-pressed to complain. I’m good at it when I can, but I can’t complain right now.

If you somehow have missed Johnny Galecki and The Big Bang Theory up until this point, you can always view all 12 seasons on the HBOMax streaming service, but you might hold off on that until you can seek insight from your friends about how this oversight might have happened in the first place. You could need medical attention.

You might not know the name Johnny Galecki, but you almost certainly know Leonard Hofstadter, Sheldon Cooper, or at least Penny (no last name). If not, you could well be wasting your time reading this.

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