|March 24, 1973|
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James Joseph Parsons was the eldest of two children born to a first grade schoolteacher and the president of a plumbing supply company on March 24, 1973 in Houston, TX. Drawn to the theater at an early age, he appeared in his first production at the age of six. An avid and talented pianist, as well as a respectable athlete, Parsons continued to take part in theatrical endeavors throughout school. However, it was a notable production of the ensemble comedy, "Noises Off" at Klein Oak High School - from which he graduated in 1991 - that irrevocably took hold of the teenager's heart and imagination. Although he had enrolled at the University of Houston to pursue a degree in meteorology, Parson's all-consuming passion for the stage soon led to the switching of majors and earning his bachelors in drama. Parsons was incredibly prolific both during and after his college years, having performed in more than two dozen plays, many with such companies as the Stages Repertory Theatre and Infernal Bridegroom Productions, the latter of which he helped found. After being accepted into a highly competitive graduate drama program at the University of San Diego and Old Globe Theatre in 1999, he left for New York, where he appeared in off-Broadway productions for several years, prior to making a gradual transition to Los Angles and Hollywood.
Parsons his first taste of Hollywood by appearing in a 2002 episode of the comedy "Ed" (NBC, 2000-04) and scoring a minor role in the film "Nowhere to Go But Up" (2003). But it was the indie hit "Garden State" (2004) that showcased the Texas native's hilariously dry brand of acting. Parsons played Tim, a Medieval Times knight who courted the onscreen mom (Jean Smart) of star-writer-director, Zach Braff. Parson followed his "Garden State" appearance with a recurring role on the series "Judging Amy" (CBS, 1999-2005), playing Rob Holbrook for seven episodes and giving the courtroom drama a bit of necessary comic relief. Parsons returned to features in 2006, racking up more indie cred with appearances in "10 Items For Less" with Morgan Freeman, the offbeat comedy "School For Scoundrels" with Billy Bob Thornton and the drama "Gardener of Eden," a dark comedy directed by "Entourage" (HBO, 2004- ) star Kevin Connolly.
In 2007, Parsons was cast in "The Big Bang Theory," along with "Roseanne" (ABC, 1988-1997) alum Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco. Parsons and Galecki played roommates who were geniuses when it came to math and science, but were utterly clueless in regard to the opposite sex. To make his geeky character more believable, Parsons spent every hour before taping an episode reading a physics dictionary. "None of this works if it's not relatable," the actor said. Though a super-genius, Parsons' character was also arrogant, tactless and displayed what some considered to be the symptoms of Asperger syndrome - a claim both the actor and the producers half-heartedly denied. Meanwhile, Parsons became the show's breakout star, and in 2010 won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, beating Alec Baldwin's two-year-winning "30 Rock" (NBC, 2006- ) streak. The accolades continued to pile on, with Parsons going head-to-head with co-star Galecki when both received Emmy nods for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in 2011. To no one's surprise, he won the Emmy in 2011 as well, graciously thanking his co-star during his speech.
Parson's rise to prominence led to plenty of other opportunities in film, television and his first love, theater. After appearing on Broadway with a supporting role in the acclaimed AIDS drama, "The Normal Heart," Parson was seen in movie houses as the human counterpart to Walter, the newest Muppet, in the feature hit "The Muppets" (2011). In addition to his continued work on "The Big Bang Theory," astute comic book fanboys recognized his distinctive twang in the voice of the super-villain Nightmare in an episode of the animated adventure series, "The Super Hero Squad Show" (Cartoon Network, 2009- ). And while it was never necessarily a closely guarded secret, The New York Times revealed in a 2012 article that was meant to cover Parson's latest stint on Broadway in "Harvey" that the actor was openly gay and had been in a relationship for the past 10 years. While continuing his role on "The Big Bang Theory," Parsons played against type in the critically-acclaimed TV movie adaptation of Larry Kramer's AIDS drama "The Normal Heart" (HBO 2014). He also reteamed with Zach Braff for a supporting role in the writer/director's "Wish I Was Here" (2014). Production on the 2014-15 season of "The Big Bang Theory" was slightly delayed by a cast holdout which resulted in the lead actors, including Parsons, receiving a reported million dollars an episode for the next three seasons. Proving the worth of that deal, Parsons won his fourth Emmy Award (out of six nominations) for the role at the 2014 awards, where he was also nominated for "The Normal Heart."