Scott D. Pierce: ‘Young Sheldon’s’ dad is glad he’s not dead yet

According to ‘Big Bang Theory’ canon, the end is near for George Cooper Sr.

(Bill Inoshita | Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.) George (Lance Barber) is none too pleased with his son (Iain Armitage) in an episode of "Young Sheldon."

Hollywood • Recently, during a press conference on the set of the “Young Sheldon,” I got both the answer to my question from series star Lance Barber and a pretty good laugh — although I really wasn’t trying to make a joke.

“Mr. Barber,” I asked, “from what we’ve known of your character from ‘Big Bang’ and his fate, are you at all surprised that you’re still here?”

“What are you saying?” Barber replied, feigning indignation at my reference to his character’s impending death.

The actor has starred as Sheldon Cooper’s father, George, since “Young Sheldon” premiered in 2017. “Young Sheldon” is, of course, a prequel to “The Big Bang Theory.” And on that show, we learned that George died of a heart attack in 1994, when Sheldon was 14.

Not everything in “Young Sheldon” lines up with what we thought we knew about Sheldon’s past in “Big Bang” — particularly when it comes to the exact timing. For that matter, not everything on “Young Sheldon” lines up.

For example, in one early episode, adult Sheldon (Jim Parsons) narrates that his older brother, Georgie (Jordan Montana), got married for the first time at the age of 19. In the upcoming April 11 episode of “Young Sheldon,” Georgie — who recently turned 18 — will marry Mandy (Emily Osment).

(Robert Voets | CBS) Georgie (Montana Jordan) and Mandy (Emily Osment) get married in the April 11 episode of "Young Sheldon."

(Jordan and Osment will star in a spinoff of “Young Sheldon” that’s set to premiere this fall.)

And it’s not a spoiler that George does indeed die of a heart attack when Sheldon is a teenager. My guess is that will happen in the hourlong series finale, which is scheduled to air on May 16. (I’m not the only one who assumes that, but it’s still just a guess at this point — it has not been confirmed by CBS or the producers.)

George’s death is something Barber said he “had the luxury of being emotionally prepared for … from Day One,” because “Big Bang Theory” spelled it out. “I had fingers crossed from the beginning, knowing the history of the character, that I would make it to the end, whenever that came.”

George’s heart health was an immediate plotline in “Young Sheldon.” He suffered a mild heart attack in the third episode, “Poker, Faith, and Eggs,” which aired in November 2017. And I was curious: “Did they attach a note to the script that said, ‘This is not the end?’”

“Yeah,” Barber said. “I never got any inclination that the end was coming any time soon. Nor did I fear it. And I knew that when and if it did come, it would be done in a beautiful way. And I anticipate that’s what’s going to happen.”

(See? He’s definitely going to die.)

Barber said he feels lucky to play “a character like this who has become — I think, fair to say — somewhat beloved, or enjoyed at the very least.” He’s proud that George is “part of an incredible legacy in television history. And to have a memorable thing like this happen for this character to be remembered that way is a big deal for me personally.”

(Robert Voets | CBS) Iain Armitage as Sheldon Cooper in 2017, left, and as Sheldon in 2024.

The end is near

In its seventh season, “Young Sheldon” is the most-watched comedy on TV and No. 3 overall on the list of most-watched scripted shows. Its ratings are actually up from the sixth season.

So why end it now? Well, this is the logical conclusion, and long foreseen.

When the series began in 2017, Sheldon (and Iain Armitage, who plays him) were both 9 years old. We knew, from “Big Bang Theory,” that Sheldon leaves Texas for Cal Tech when he’s 14, which would be an obvious end point for “Young Sheldon.”

The series will end after seven seasons; Armitage actually turns 16 in July. I don’t know if Armitage, who said he’s about 5 feet, 9 inches tall, will ever be as tall as Parsons, who’s 6 feet, 1 inch, but he’s certainly not a little boy anymore.

“We know what happens in Sheldon’s life when he’s 14,” said executive producer Steve Holland, “and we sort of started talking about the future of the show and what it would look like” after Season 6. “It just felt like the right time to end the show, and to end it strong and while it was still on top.”

“Young Sheldon” airs Thursdays at 7 p.m. on CBS/Channel 2, and streams on Paramount+.

(Robert Voets | CBS) Montana Jordan as Georgie, Emily Osment as Mandy, Lance Barber as George Sr., Iain Armitage as Sheldon, Raegan Revord as Missy, Zoe Perry as Mary, and Annie Potts as Connie aka Meemaw in "Young Sheldon."

The miracle of casting

Parsons pitched the idea of “Young Sheldon” to “Big Bang Theory” producers in 2016, but executive producer Chuck Lorre said he never really believed the idea would come to fruition because he didn’t think they’d find a child actor who could play the title character.

“The miracle of casting ‘Young Sheldon’ was one we understood was very likely not going to happen. But it did,” said Lorre, whose long list of hits includes “Grace Under Fire,” “Cybill,” “Dharma & Greg,” “Two and a Half Men,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Mike & Molly,” “Mom,” “The Kominsky Method” and “Bob Hearts Abishola.”

“We wouldn’t be sitting here,” Lorre said, if Armitage’s mother hadn’t sent the producers a video of Iain in “a scene that Steve [Molaro] and I wrote that we never intended to shoot. But we just wrote the most difficult scene imaginable for an 8-year-old, and this guy killed it. He killed it. And if that had not happened, we wouldn’t have gone forward.”