Some big things went down on Thursday night’s season finale of The Big Bang Theory, but if you haven’t seen it yet, be warned: SPOILERS FOLLOW!
He did it! After a season of wondering whether Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) would marry Bernadette Rostenkowski (Melissa Rauch) – and whether he would board a Russian rocket to the International Space Station — the bowl-haired horn-dog engineer somehow pulled both of them off.
Which isn’t to say the road was a smooth one. The wedding was thrown together at the last minute on the roof of Penny, Leonard and Sheldon’s building, which we saw in flashback as Howard’s life flashed before his eyes on the launch pad in Kazakhstan. But Howard did launch into space, and he did it as a married man.
EW caught up with Simon Helberg after a special screening of the season finale at the Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles to get his thoughts on Howard’s big achievements; what it was like to wear an authentic cosmonaut space suit while sitting in an authentic replica of a Soyuz space capsule; and what it’s been like to have his character front and center over the last three episodes. Check out our Q&A below:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: All season, we’ve been building to the wedding. Did you think it would happen?
SIMON HELBERG: Honestly, I went back and forth, because I honestly didn’t know. I started to think, “God, how could they ever get there, if they’ve fumbled so many times along the way? It can’t be the traditional wedding. There’s no way it would ever work out.” And then I started to think, what will happen in the future for this character if he’s married. Is that going to change him so drastically that we won’t have any of that same dynamic we had before.
And then it just seemed to happen very naturally. It’s been five years. It’s not like we’re in the 10th year and there was never any romance; they just married us. It seems like it built up pretty evenly and naturally. You start to see, wait a second, even though he’s married, the dynamic has not completely shifted yet. He’s not grown up. He’s still with his mother. He still needs these guys to hang out with. And now you’re going to get this whole view of what married life is like, which I think is a kind of fascinating thing to put into this show about young nerds.
And then there was Howard’s launch into space. Was that space suit custom-made for you?
That suit was custom-made, yes. Those suits were all supposedly incredibly authentic. I mean, you couldn’t go into space with them. I didn’t try to do that. But they were pretty intense. It took, like, three people to get them on, and a cooling system — yeah, you start to feel like you’re actually doing something.
I imagine when the helmet goes on, that’s helpful. What was it like acting with that plastic in front of you?
It was very different. You couldn’t really move. You couldn’t hear everyone so well. You were sweating a lot. Not that I’m Method about it, but it did add to the disorientation of it and the claustrophobia. I’m sure Daniel Day-Lewis would’ve done the same had he been in my shoes.
I went to Space Camp as a kid, so it brought back some memories, watching you in there.
Oh, yeah. I never went, but I had a lot of friends who went to Space Camp and talked about it. There were moments, where I was like, oh my God, this would be the absolute scariest thing ever. That [Soyuz capsule] is so tiny. I talked to Mike [Massimino] about it. He didn’t go into space in one, but he’d sat in one. And you shoot up into space within — I think it’s, like, eight minutes, or something. And you’re in that thing — I can’t imagine. You’ve got to have a lot of balls to do that. It’s commendable.
So the last three episodes of the season were very much about Howard. You were front and center in a way that Howard has not been often. How’s it been having that much concentrated story time spent on your character?
It’s been really nice. Obviously selfishly I enjoy that, but I felt like it was earned. You have to address all of these things that have been brewing. You have to address a marriage, a space journey, the father-in-law — you have to address these things to make it real. It did all kind of come in one chunk in the end, but it’s been great. And I love the way they’ve written so many different colors over the last few episodes for me.
Howard’s been so sweet — what he says after the bachelor party, and with the star necklace…
Yeah. I felt really lucky. It was a bold move to let it go into an emotional territory without feeling sappy or anything like that. Hopefully people felt the same. I think it’s nice to see that side.
So for season 6, would you want Howard to no longer live with his mother?
They’re really good with making it truthful, so I think it has to be addressed. I think that will be fun to see that. I think it’s a natural progression to see him at least be cognizant that he’s got to move out, at some point, to be healthy. But maybe Bernadette thinks it’s okay to spend some more time with her.
Melissa Rauch does such a good Howard’s mom.
She does! You know, it’s not like he’ll be too far from the nest, I guess. But I look forward to seeing how they deal with it. I think it’s just adding layers. It’s one of the benefits of being on [TV] this long — you get to really develop things.