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“The Big Bang Theory” will end its run in May 2019 at the conclusion of the twelfth and final season.
USA TODAY

BURBANK, Calif. – Twelve years gets a child from first grade to high school graduation,  and the cast of “The Big Bang Theory” is keenly aware of that parallel as TV’s top comedy approaches its finish line May 16 – during commencement season – after 12 seasons and 279 episodes.

“It puts the span of time into perspective, but that span as adults is very different, because you share weddings, divorces, births and deaths. You share a whole lot together, good and bad,” says Johnny Galecki, whose character, physicist Leonard Hofstadter, pursues a big career opportunity on Thursday’s episode of the CBS comedy (8 EDT/PDT).

A poster on a backstage wall includes pictures of new arrivals (36 cast and crew babies, along with star Kaley Cuoco’s horse, Zane) from the show’s run, and the actors share remembrances of Carol Ann Susi (the voice of Mrs. Wolowitz), who died in 2014.

“Big Bang Theory” stars Mayim Bialik, Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar picked their favorite guest stars, plotlines and props for USA TODAY. (Photo: Michael Yarish, Warner Bros.)

In the spirit of a high-school yearbook, USA TODAY asked the seven principal cast members – Galecki, Cuoco, Jim Parsons, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch – about their “Big Bang” favorites. 

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Favorite supporting player

Bialik (Amy Farrah Fowler), picks Kevin Sussman, who plays sad-sack comic book store owner Stuart: “He’s part of our family. I learn a lot from him as an actor. He does a lot with a little and he has an understated way of handling things that otherwise could be too much.”

Mayim Bialik says Kevin Sussman (center), who plays sad sack Stuart, is her favorite supporting player. (Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS)

Parsons (Sheldon Cooper) chooses Laurie Metcalf and Christine Baranski, who play the mothers of Sheldon and Leonard: “I see them as actor’s actors. All the years that I watched them (before ‘Big Bang’), I would identify with them as performers, as a fellow craftsman in the field. To meet them and realize that was true was overjoying. Working with them was as rewarding and interesting as I always thought it would be.”  

Most welcome guest star

Helberg (Howard Wolowitz) selects renowned physicist Stephen Hawking: “That’s a moment where I was looking at him and I just couldn’t process that he was here. It’s those moments that do tend to be larger than life.”

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Rauch’s (Bernadette Rostenkowski) favorite is Bob Newhart, a choice seconded by Parsons. 

“I’ve been such a big stand-up comedy fan my whole life,” she says. “I had a Bob Newhart record album as a kid that was my father’s (and) I did stand-up before I came to (‘Big Bang’). I had a wonderful conversation with him about stand-up and the live audience aspect and our love for it. I will cherish that conversation always.”

Jim Parson (Sheldon) and Melissa Rauch (Bernadette) count Bob Newhart (right), who played Professor Proton, as their favorite guest star. (Photo: MONTY BRINTON/CBS)

Nayyar (Raj Koothrappali) picks Mark Hamill and Kal Penn: “I remember being an Indian actor in grad school while watching Kal. He was making ‘Harold and Kumar’ and did ‘The Namesake’ at the time. He was the only (actor of Indian descent) at the time who was doing it in a big way and he gave me a lot of hope. Now, to call him a friend and to work with him is a dream.”

More: ‘Big Bang Theory’ cast is ‘super emotional’ about the show ending, except Jim Parsons

Sam and Kumar go to Pasadena: “Harold and Kumar” star Kal Penn, left, and “Lord of the Rings” cast member Sean Astin pay a visit to “Big Bang” on May 2. (Photo: Michael Yarish/WARNER BROS.)

Top episode or storyline

Helberg’s favorite is his role as Howard the astronaut, in Seasons 5 and 6. Going “to space was a unique storyline in a sitcom. We are probably the only show that could legitimately send someone to space and people won’t think twice. Some of the technical stuff required moving in such a way that people would buy into me floating around in space. … I just was hoping I’d come back alive. And I did. Barely.”

Bialik fondly recalls the night Sheldon and Amy lost their virginity, in Season 9: “It was really special for how veiled it was. We took something so monumental for Sheldon and this relationship and did not have it be a vulgar episode or really even a highly comedic episode. That was really special for me.”

Trophies for the taking

Helberg’s cherished possession is a Nintendo belt buckle he wore in the series’ 2007 premiere, “because I have a vivid memory of that.”

Nayyar’s pick is a replica dagger from “Lord of the Rings” carried by Frodo.  

“It’s on the wall of the boys’ apartment,” he said. “I’d like to take that.”

When ‘The Big Bang Theory’ ends, Kaley Cuoco, right, seen in a recent episode, would like to keep the robot poster on the door at the rear of the set, which is in her character’s sight line in group scenes. (Photo: Michael Yarish, CBS)

Cuoco covets the Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em robots poster on the door behind the couch in the apartment Leonard and Penny share: “It involves a very significant story between me and (executive producer) Steve Molaro, so I’ll be taking that. Steve and I have always had a sweet relationship and it’s something we both love so much. It’s always in my (sight) line from where I sit in the living room set, so I’m glad I’m going to put it in my own living room, (where) I’ll see it forever.”

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