Actress Zoe Perry on becoming like her character on 'Young Sheldon'

Iain Armitage, Perry, Raegan Revord, Lance Barber and Montana Jordan star as the Coopers - the Texan family delivering the laughs on Young Sheldon. Photo: Handout

Actress Zoe Perry finds herself becoming a bit like her character on Young Sheldon at times.

The American sitcom revolves around the life of the Coopers – a family of five living in East Texas in 1989. Perry plays mum Mary who comes across a little uptight.

“Mary can be at times too rigid. So that can also kind of dictate how I carry myself,” says the 36-year-old actress in an exclusive phone interview with StarLifestyle from Sydney, Australia.

“So sometimes I’ll leave the set at the end of the day, and everything can feel a little clenched.”

Young Sheldon is a prequel to The Big Bang Theory (TBBT). The eccentric, socially awkward Sheldon Cooper was such a popular character on TBBT when it aired for 12 seasons, spinoff Young Sheldon was birthed, chronicling the early life of the theoretical physicist.

Does being able to see her fictional son as an adult on TBBT influences how she plays Mary on Young Sheldon?

The actress offers: “I try not to focus on that. As parents, you don’t know what’s coming and I think that can be very relatable to a lot of parents out there. We really just hope for the best, and sometimes, prepare for the worst.”

She adds: “It’s always the conundrum of acting in general – pretending you don’t know what’s coming.”

While Sheldon’s intellectual ability is off the charts, he often gets misunderstood due to his lack of social skills. As such, Mary can get very protective of him.

“I think the fear that he might not be embraced by the outside world is very hard for her,” she reflects on her character’s motivations.

“There’s always a balancing act of when do I protect him and when do I let him stand on his own?”

Young Sheldon
Zoe Perry (right) says her character’s rigidness spills over to her own life at times.

While Sheldon anchors the show, the series also fleshes out its other characters. In Season Two, Mary starts to pursue her own interests, taking on a temporary position at the local church, which gives her a lot of personal fulfilment.

In Season Three, which just premiered last week, Perry hopes to see more of that.

“I definitely like seeing her experience the world inside the family unit and also outside. I imagine that we’ll definitely have more to explore in her work life at the church on this new season.

“And it’ll be interesting to see if that takes more of a hold over her and if that creates some kind of tension back at home.”

The show will also be returning for a fourth season, no doubt stemmed by its encouraging ratings.

“There is something universal about the trials and tribulations of a family and what people experience in a family dynamic – the love but also the friction. And we also get a fun boost of nostalgia with regards to when the show is set in,” Perry talks about its appeal.

Young Sheldon marks the actress’s first time landing a series regular role. She starred in various guest roles before this including Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice.

Asked if playing one character for such a long period of time can be challenging, she responds: “Learning how to live in one character for an extended period of time can be a challenge but at the same time, I have to remind myself that I don’t know all there is to know about my character and there’s still plenty to explore and figure out. The writers are always helpful in that arena.”

She continues: “The nature of acting tends to be not knowing what’s around the bend. To have this kind of stability is wonderful.”

Perry’s parents are both actors – dad Jeff Perry had a main role on Scandal while mum Laurie Metcalf was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2018 for the film Lady Bird. Incidentally, Metcalf played the older version of Mary in TBBT.

“I was definitely aware of the stresses of this particular occupation. So for a long time I thought acting was not going to be something I would pursue. But when I started dabbling, I just got very hooked on it. My parents have been very supportive,” she says as she is following in her parents footsteps.

“They’ve been an amazing role model for me. Watching their passion for acting has been such a pleasure.”

Young Sheldon Season Three airs every Friday at 8.35pm on Warner TV (Astro Ch 719/unifi TV Ch 451).

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