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Catching up with Wolowitz

by Adam Wills

July 27, 2009 | 6:47 pm

After last week’s Emmy nod for nerd-tastic “Big Bang Theory”—a sitcom that revolves around two Caltech physics professors who share an apartment, their equally geeky friends and a wannabe actress who lives next door—GeekHeeb caught up with series creator Chuck Lorre (“Two and a Half Men”) and actor Simon Helberg at Comic-Con to discuss the show’s Jewish characters: Howard Wolowitz, a Caltech engineer/ romantic loser who still lives at home with his never-seen, overbearing Jewish mother, known only as Ms. Wolowitz.

Lorre says that Wolowitz is based on his own Jewish background as well as that of Helberg.

“Things are loud in a Jewish household. Conversations are up here,” Lorre said, lifting his hand above his head, “they’re pitched pretty high. That’s just the way we talk. Other people go, ‘Why are you yelling?’ I’m not yelling; I’m making a point! That was the fun of creating that off-camera mother. That’s how communication happens in some households, and it’s normal in that house.”

Lorre says he didn’t think anything of the communication style in his home growing up until he had dinner for the first time with a non-Jewish family.

“They said, ‘Could you please pass the butter?’ I said, ‘Why are you whispering?’”

Helberg, who plays Wolowitz, says that his character and the mother are reflective of trends in Jewish society today—how one generation’s experiences and values don’t always mesh with the other.

“He’s really into science. You don’t how he feels about religion. He’s more cutting-edge, questioning things and breaking away. His mother is more of the old school,” Helberg said.

As far as the Jewish elements he feels he brings to the role: “Well, my nose,” joked Helberg, who had his bar mitzvah at University Synagogue in Westwood, where he still attends High Holy Days services.

While Wolowitz’s mother (played by Carol Ann Susi) has more than made her presence known (even if we don’t see her), we have yet to hear from Mr. Wolowitz.

That could change this year. Lorre says Ringo Starr is being considered for the part of the father.

And when last we left the cast of “Big Bang Theory” at the end of season two, Wolowitz, Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Raj (Kunal Nayyar) had followed Sheldon (Emmy-nominee Jim Parsons) to the North Magnetic Pole to help during a three-month mission to prove the validity of string theory. When the series picks up again on Sept. 21, Lorre said the four will freak when they realize they’ve missed out on Comic-Con and the recent “Star Trek” film.

As far as the possibility of Wolowitz heading off to the high-tech Jewish state for a limelight episode in the near future, Lorre said he prefers keeping the characters together. 

“It’s a good idea, but we’re really more involved right now with the intimate relationships – romantic, friendship and family,” he said. “We’re keeping it really small.”

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