Leading men in Emmy contention

In “The Big Bang Theory,” Sheldon Cooper and Leonard Hofstadter are two geek peas in a Mensa pod intellectually but light years apart emotionally. Likewise, while their careers have taken very different paths to primetime, Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons share a sharp comic sensibility that infuses their onscreen interactions with unpredictable results.

Call it a Vulcan and Romulan family reunion.

“Jim and I have a natural volley between us,” Galecki says. Adds Parsons: “The scenes between Sheldon and Leonard are such a pleasure to perform because it’s such a verbal dance.”

Galecki, who was born in Belgium while his Air Force father was stationed there, began performing in theater as a child after the family settled near Chicago in the late 1970s and later got his TV break in “Roseanne” as Darlene’s long-suffering boyfriend. The longtime thesp says he took a wait-and-see attitude toward the series initially, even though his gut told him it was something special.

“I try not to have any expectations. You can never assume how an audience will react,” Galecki explains. “I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve felt that way before, but then the project never saw the light of day.”

He believes his current show’s willingness to go for the less obvious is one of its strengths. “I like that the humor of the show goes from silly to straight. It’s fun for the audience and fun for us when it’s unpredictable.”

Parsons, who grew up in Texas, is a relative newcomer to Hollywood, having moved to California around six years ago. The original “Big Bang Theory,” which he says was filmed almost two years ago, was just his second pilot. “I was so happy to be there — and scared to death.” That version of the show was scrapped, but Parsons was asked to return to shoot the pilot for the revamped series. Like Galecki, Parsons takes nothing for granted. “I do feel more secure now than I did four months ago as far as staying on the air for now, but it’s still TV, so you don’t know. The feeling I do have, which never goes away, is try to keep remembering to enjoy as much of it as you can because it’s a dream job.”

JOHNNY GALECKI

Favorite scene: “Jim and I were trying to get a piece of furniture from Ikea up the stairs of our apartment building and we were getting all these laughs from the crew. He and I looked at each other, and that’s when I knew the dynamic I had with him in the pilot wasn’t a fluke.”

What you like most about your character: “I enjoy the contradiction that is Leonard’s longing for social acceptance and his total lack of an ability to achieve it. He wants the approval of the outside world but is terrified of it.”

TV guilty pleasure: “Every now and then I’ll start to watch some reality show and then stop after four or five episodes because I can’t believe I’m actually watching it.”

JIM PARSONS

Favorite scene: “The scene where Sheldon is kicked off the Physics Bowl. It was the first time they had made Sheldon feel something; he was angry because he was hurt. I just thought that was a wonderful first peek into where his heart cracks a little.”

What you like most about your character: “He gets away with saying a lot of things others wouldn’t because he’s really just giving a factual critique.”

TV guilty pleasure: “American Idol.” “I wouldn’t say I’m a junkie, but I really enjoy watching people perform week in and week out. I get a real kick out of it.”

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