The Big Bang Theory came to an end this week, leaving 12 years of classic sitcom to look back on.
The Big Bang Theory premiered in 2006, and it rose to network TV prominence pretty fast. The multi-cam comedy has reigned for more than 12 years now, so as sad as fans were to see it go, it had a better run than most shows get.
In its long tenure, the cast has blossomed into one of the most beloved ensembles on TV. Each one has become a star in their own right, growing into the height of their career before our eyes every week.
At the end of The Big Bang Theory, the cast were some of the highest paid actors on TV. According to a recent report by Entertainment Tonight, they were each making about $1 million per episode this season, and a renewal would likely have meant raises for all of them. Last year, four out of the top five highest-paid actors on TV according to Forbes were cast members on The Big Bang Theory.
They have come a long way from that first awkward appearance in their nerdy bachelor pad, but now it is at an end. Here is a look back the cast of The Big Bang Theory from their first introduction to the final season.
Sheldon Cooper - Jim Parsons
Actor Jim Parsons may have seen more wide-ranging success than anyone thanks to The Big Bang Theory. The actor now has his hands in many ventures, including TV and short films. He also sees profits from the spinoff, Young Sheldon, as it is based on the character he helped create.
“I feel very proud of the work we do," Parsons told Variety about the show. "I love coming here, and one of the more astonishing things … is how enjoyable it still is, to do this job, at a very visceral level as an actor, this far in.”
Leonard Hofstadter - Johnny Galecki
Johnny Galecki reinvented himself as Leonard Hofstadter on The Big Bang Theory in 2006, and then fittingly returned to his roots as David on the Roseanne reboot last year. The actor is also a passionate musician, and will undoubtedly be on screen again in the future. However, when asked what the future holds by PEOPLE, he said that he has been too emotional to think that far ahead.
“The only manner in which the cast has discussed wrapping [The Big Bang Theory] has been that we’re all going to be very sad when that day comes," he said. "But I think at this point everyone’s very comfortable with 12 seasons being a good time to go home and see our families.”
Penny Hofstadter - Kaley Cuoco
For many people, Penny was the relatable character that gave them access to the nerd world of The Big Bang Theory in the beginning, and now she is a part of it. Actress Kaley Cuoco got married in real life last year, and has spent as much spare time as possible on horseback since. She, too, was not ready to start planning for life after the series.
“I can’t really picture it. And I don’t think there really will be my life without it — I think it’ll always be there, I think it’ll always be running, I think we’ll always have those fans. It’s always going to be a part of me," she said.
Raj Koothrappali - Kunal Nayyar
Perhaps no character has grown more than Raj Koothrappali over the course of the series, going from a socially anxious scientist who was physically incapable of speaking to women to a functioning adult. In his interview, actor Kunal Nayyar said that he has grown on the show as well.
“I grew up on this show — I was a kid out of grad school. I don’t even know how to comprehend that," he said.
Bernadette Rostenkowski - Melissa Rauch
After her introduction in Season 2, Bernadette quickly became a mainstay of the show, as it was clear the ensemble needed another female presence. Thankfully, Melissa Rauch was just right for the job, able to dish out punchlines as well as her co-stars.
Rauch has become fully integrated into the cast outside of work as well. She told reporters that she cherishes their friendship.
“A lot of us hang out. It’s just a close-knit group. Kaley is the best at throwing parties. Mayim’s the deep thinker, and Kunal is a big giggler. We all get along, and it’s a nice family feel," she said.
Amy Farrah Fowler - Mayim Bialik
Actress Mayim Bialik is more qualified to be on The Big Bang Theory than any of her co-stars. In real life, she is a trained neuroscientist, and she admitted that she is a bit similar to her character in real life.
“I was pretty studious, so I can relate to Amy a lot. I was actually a late bloomer to science and became interested when I was 15 while working on Blossom and had a tutor with a real passion for science," she said.
Finally, the cast is known for its iconic group shots, usually piled onto living room furniture with take-out containers in hand. Fittingly, there were plenty of those in the last season, sending the gang off in style.