Warning: This contains spoilers about tonight’s episode of The Big Bang Theory.
The Big Bang Theory welcomed its newest cast member tonight as Bernadette gave birth to her second child, a son named Neil Michael Wolowitz. The name didn’t come easy, especially after Howard discovered that Bernadette decided to name their son Michael (after her father) without consulting him first. They later decided on Neil—but they’ll still call their son Michael, only because Howard felt sorry that Bernadette had to push out a child with a head the size of a cantaloupe. And here you thought Amy and Sheldon had issues.
But how did the writers decide on the name? And what’s going to happen now that the Wolowitz clan is a family of four? With only eight episodes remaining in season 11, executive producer Steve Holland fills us in to talk about the story he’s done telling, Shamy’s exciting wedding venue, and more.
How long did it take to decide on the name, Neil Michael?
Steve Holland: It took us a while. There was a lot of discussion on finding the name that felt right. Early on we thought Michael could be the middle name because it was such a discussion between Howard and Bernadette in the episode, and it seemed like a nice compromise. We had a different first name in the script for a while, but we weren’t super satisfied about it. Neil Michael seemed to check off all the boxes…you have Neil Armstrong, the astronaut, Neil Gaiman, the English author and comic book writer, and Neil Diamond, which pulls back to Howard’s love of Neil Diamond. So it all seemed to really fit.
What was the other name you originally had in the script for the baby?
SH: You know what, I honestly wish I could remember. It’s been a couple months since we wrote the script.
Now that Bernadette and Howard are a family of four, where do we go from here? What stories are you looking forward to telling for them?
SH: No more pregnancy stories. She’s not going to get pregnant a third time.
Except I wouldn’t put it past you to make this a running joke, and she becomes pregnant at the start of next season as well.
SH: [Laughs.] Yeah, every year! It’s funny, because even going into this season with [Bernadette and Howard] finding out they were expecting again, which was a great little shot in the arm for the characters and a surprise, but then we settled into, “Well now we have to tell pregnancy stories and find a way to do it that was different from last time.” I’m pretty proud of the way we told these pregnancy stories, but I can’t imagine doing it a third time.
Will we see Bernadette experience postpartum, or even Howard go through a tough time now that they have two children under two?
SH: Well, we’ll see the two of them wrestling with being the parents of two kids, which is definitely a different thing than just being the parent of one kid. But for us, we don’t want the gravity of the show to shift to just being a family sitcom about home life and kids. I mean, that’s definitely a part of it and their characters, but it’s not where the show lives.
Obviously Halley has been a tribute to Mrs. Wolowitz, but will things be different with Michael? Will we actually see him?
SH: Uh, we’re going to have wait and see. We want to honor the fact that they have a baby on the show, but I’m not a fan of having babies on set. It makes me feel bad for them. So we’re trying to find ways where we can use the kids and not make it a huge central part of the show.
Will Michael have a normal baby cry, or will he follow in his sister’s Mrs. Wolowitz-esque footsteps?
SH: [Laughs.] Yes, I think [he’ll have a normal baby cry]. What was so great with Halley and finding Pam Adlon to do the voice as a tribute to Carol Ann [Susi, who played Mrs. Wolowitz] was exciting for us and special, and I don’t think we can just do that again.
In this episode, we also find out that Sheldon has not only thought about having children of his own, but 15 of them to be exact.
SH: We need to get them pregnant [next] if we’re going to get all 15 kids out.
I know you don’t want to do more pregnancy storylines right now, but do you actually talk about having Shamy, or Leonard and Penny, start a family while the series is still on the air?
SH: Yeah, it’s always a discussion. At some point, these characters have to be real people and have things going on in their lives. These are people who are married or are getting married, but, at the same time, we’ve now done two seasons of pregnancy stories. I can’t say exactly what season 12 holds, because we’re still trying to get through season 11, but I’m not super excited to tell another pregnancy story right now.
What about Shamy’s wedding? Will we see it happen this season?
SH: I think we will. We haven’t written the finale yet. We’re still a few episodes away, but it’s what we’ve been building to. We’ve been certainly talking a lot about it in the [writers] room, and we have a lot of really fun and exciting ideas for it.
Will any family members we haven’t seen before make an appearance?
SH: This is a chance to meet some of Sheldon and Amy’s family members who we haven’t met before. We have lists going. I can’t say who yet, and we haven’t locked anybody in, but we certainly have been talking to people we think would be fun to play them. Hopefully we’ll have exciting news for you soon.
Amy originally wanted a cliffside wedding on the beach in June. Sheldon wasn’t so game, so will this wedding be on location or will it be in studio?
SH: I think Amy in her wedding planning realized how difficult it is for a multi-camera show to pull off. [Laughs.] She’s like, it’s going to be so difficult to get all those cameras out there on the cliff! No, we really have a fun—I will tease it, but not give it away—very Sheldon and Amy spot for the wedding to happen in, but the location of the wedding is going to be a central part of another episode that’s coming up soon.
Recently, Sheldon—it seems—finally realized how awful he’s been to Amy and his friends. With that said, Sheldon is always going to be Sheldon. Do you think he truly understands his behavior?
SH: He’s always going to be Sheldon. We’ve done 250 episodes, and you can’t stay static. You have to let these characters grow a little bit. The trick for us as writers is finding the space where they’re growing, but you’re not losing who they are as characters. People have moments of self-realization, but if you look at the arc of these characters, it’s been a continual progression of small growth. That will continue. That doesn’t mean Sheldon’s not going to be a jerk to anybody again—I don’t think he has that in him—but he’s grown as a person and just started to realize some of the effects his behavior have on others as well.
Yeah, because I wanted to slap him a few times this season. I know he’s stunted in certain ways, but if he’s going to get married he has to step up to the plate.
SH: What’s interesting about Sheldon and what’s great about Jim’s performance is that even when he’s being difficult, there’s always a sweetness. I don’t think he’s ever intending to hurt anybody or make anyone miserable. It comes from a place of naïveté a lot of times.
What can you say about Penny and Leonard going forward? They seem to be in a much better place this season than they were last year when it comes to their marriage and communication.
SH: It’s been interesting talking about them as a couple and what’s going on in their relationship. We’ve had fun finding stories for them this season. We have another good story coming up where Bill Gates is coming and Penny gets to show him around her pharmaceutical company, and Leonard desperately wants to meet him. I’ve enjoyed watching them enjoy each other.
They still tease each other, but it’s rooted in a place of confidence and love.
SH: Sometimes we get pushback because people feel Penny’s being snarky or she’s being mean to him, but it always comes out of a place of love. That’s the way it’s intended.
Let’s talk about Raj. His love life has been such a struggle, which feels authentic because dating can be the worst.
SH: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been really proud this season of Raj’s journey, specifically when he and Howard had their breakup and he got a little more confidence, he got this planetarium job, and his dating life has gone a little bit better. It’s been fun to write that without losing who Raj is as a character, but to write a slightly more confident Raj. That’s been fun for us. It’s tricky because everyone else on the show is married, so it’s nice to have a character who is single just to contrast with them. I love these characters as people, so I also want Raj to be happy someday, but it’s actually been fun this season to tell some dating stories with him.
It was good to see him be more confident this season, whether it’s standing up to Howard or embracing his natural hair.
SH: Even though those changes might seem small, those moments are a little scary for us. We talk about them a lot because you never want to cross a line where it suddenly doesn’t feel like Raj anymore. We thought, if Raj’s natural hair looks too weird for the character, we could always say that Cinnamon didn’t like it and she barked at him every time he came in and he went back to straightening it. So we had a little escape hatch just in case it felt weird, but it didn’t at all. It seemed like such a nice moment in that episode to give him that thing that he had done all these years to fit in because Howard had straight hair. He’s taking a stand to be more himself.
There are only eight episodes left in the season. You haven’t written all of them yet, but what else can you say about what’s to come?
SH: We have Bill Gates dropping by for an episode, and that will be super fun. As the wedding approaches, there are a few more things on our wedding checklist to get done. We’re talking about the wedding, obviously, as a chance to see some of Sheldon and Amy’s family that we haven’t met yet. We’re just in the process of talking casting about those roles now, so I don’t have anything to report yet but hopefully will soon.