A new book about the history of The Big Bang Theory has revealed a number of behind-the-scenes details, and in one portion some of the cast members say they were "blindsided" by Jim Parson's decision to exit the series. Parsons played Sheldon Cooper throughout all 12 seasons of The Big Bang Theory, with his character even spawning a hit prequel spinoff, Young Sheldon. Ahead of the show's final season, it was rumored that Parsons had expressed his intention to exit, prompting producers to end the show completely rather than continue without him.
In Jessica Radloff's oral history book The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story of the Epic Hit Series, Johnny Galecki — who played Leonard Hofstadter — shared his reaction, per PEOPLE, to learning Parsons' exit news. "I was shocked. We were just blindsided that day. And not necessarily shocked by Jim's decision, but that he hadn't had that conversation with his castmates first to prepare us. So yes, it could have been handled better. We're a family; have a conversation. And I don't even disagree with how Jim felt, because in many ways, I felt the same way. I just disagreed with how it was managed."
Galecki went on to say that he was "kind of losing it" while seeing his friends and castmates "emotionally crumble upon hearing the news." The actor added that it was "tearing me to shreds watching Kaley break down and see the tears from everyone." He also explained, "I don't think I could have performed in the way I wanted to, or would want to, if we did continue. I was done myself, I think. I didn't really know how to serve the character or the great writing anymore. But none of us – the actors, writers – were comfortable with doing the show without one of us. And we absolutely would not continue on without Jim."
Notably, showrunner Steve Molaro defended the show's creative team, saying, "There was never a question about continuing on without him. The show was this ensemble and the thought of doing some strange version without him didn't seem right." With a decision made, Molaro and series co-creator Chuck Lorre called a meeting where they allowed Parsons to share his news, and then Lorre broke the news that he "didn't want to see a path forward with anybody leaving the show."
"But there was a lot of crying in the room. Kaley [Cuoco], in particular," Lorre recalled. "It was a blow. And there was no way to soften it by giving them a heads-up. I didn't know any other way to do it." Cuoco confirmed Lorre's recollection, and added, "The shock of, Oh my God, what is next? was scary. I mean, we cried for hours that day. We thought we were going to do another year, so all of the sudden your life kind of flashes before your eyes. I looked at Chuck and said, 'What are we going to do?' I couldn't breathe. It just felt like a death, but also a new horizon for everybody as well."