my exclusive interview with Blossom star Mayim Bialik, who spills on playing a nerd, struggling as a teen in the spotlight and watching SNL spoof her with facial prosthetics (whoa!) in a not-so-nice Blossom parody featuring fellow Big Bang co-star Sara Gilbert.
A sampling of her comments:
The ultimate nerd show, The Big Bang Theory. What can you tell us about your arc that begins with the May 24 season finale?
I don’t know much more than you do. I’m sort of the tease—I’m the last episode of this season—as a possible, maybe love interest for Sheldon. And Sheldon is going to be exactly the same Sheldon that he was before, just with this sort of possibility of what might it look like for him to possibly, conditionally, maybe be enticed.
Blossom was known for sort of breaking new ground in so-called “very special episodes.”
What did they mean to you personally as a teenager? And what did you think of the backlash to that—for instance, the Saturday Night Live spoof?
First of all I think the fact that we had a show about a divorced father raising three kids when their mom split just because she wanted to live her own life—in 1990, that wasn’t part of our culture’s vernacular. Fathers were with children because the wife, God forbid, died. Not because she wanted to be a musician in Paris. So our whole show was sort of a “very special concept.” (Laughs.) That’s where some of the jumping off for that was.
Television in the nineties was sort of goofy all around. We were on after Fresh Prince. And the clothing was crazy, and the tone of the sitcom was very interesting.
In terms of the SNL skit, that’s one of the highest compliments that one can be paid. We were also featured in MAD magazine, and I grew up reading MAD magazine. They did a parody of Blossom … and as long as MAD magazine knew who I was, it was great.
Did SNL need to use prosthetics on the actress (Melanie Hutsell) who played me? I don’t think so. And that (decision) was just sort of a personal comment. And also Sara Gilbert was the guest that week. And I also think SNL has a lot of talented women come on the show who basically ridicule other actresses. And I think we can move above a catty level with actresses these days. But it is a tremendously high compliment to be enough part of (popular) culture that SNL does a spoof of you. Personal issues aside, it was incredible. You’ve arrived in the industry when SNL, or for me MAD magazine, are spoofing you.
Getting your doctoral in neuroscience, how has that helped you better understand the neuroses of Hollywood?
It’s a great question. And people (wonder) when they hear especially that I chose not to stay in academia but wanted to be home with my kids and nurse exclusively and home school—acting has really only been in the last year since our little guy is older. What I say is I use my degree all the time. I believe strongly in the field of neuroscience and neuropsychiatry in which I was trained. I’m not saying I understand people perfectly but to go through that kind of study, there’s not way in cannot affect your life on all fronts.
For me as a person of faith, I draw tremendous joy from my understanding of quantum physics. I draw tremendous joy from my understanding of how sometimes people hurt you when they want to love you. These are all big, complicated things that occur in the human experience that I’m grateful to my training for providing me with. I love being able to play with numbers. I love being able to explain things to my son when he starts asking, “Well, why is the moon here at night and the sun here at day?” I love being able to say more than, “Oh, the moon’s going night-night.” You know? (Laughs.) I love being a science person. That’s why I studied it in the first place.
Does this give you a better understanding of some of the quirks of Hollywood and celebrity in general? You’ve always been pretty grounded, but do you have more respect for those neuroses?
I do. I’m often asked about public figures who’ve displayed interesting behavior. Not just the tragic stories … but things like Britney Spears shaving her head in public. It’s nice to be able to not come from a gossip perspective. Kind of a pet peeve of mine is gossip, and I don’t like to gossip and I don’t like to be involved in gossip, but it’s nice to be asked things like, “What do you think of Britney Spears?” I’m not that popular at cocktail parties when I say things like this, but it really is my understanding that she’s a person who’s exhibiting some signs of distress or possibly postpartum (depression) … That’s how I view the world and that’s how I view people, whether they’re in Hollywood or not.
I think it’s also given me a lot more patience when people annoy me or reject me or don’t act the way I want when a producer is so caught up in his own whatever or her own narcissism—it gives me more compassion for them. I try not to be an angry person, and the industry can make you very, very angry. (Laughs.)
One of your earliest guest roles was on MacGyver—which, of course, is now an SNL sketch-turned-feature film spoof that precedes an actual MacGyver motion picture now in the works. If MacGyver can save the world with a paper clip and a rubber band, what would a holistic Blossom do to rescue the planet?
(Laughs.) Whatever it is, it would involve pesticide-free flowers and a hemp pack.