SPOILER ALERT: The following story contains details about Thursday night’s season finale.
The season-long arc on The Big Bang Theory, which started with Sheldon’s surprise proposal in the last seconds of the Season 10 finale, culminated in the Season 11 finale tonight when Sheldon and Amy tied the knot in front of their families and friends. The episode was filled with guest stars including Kathy Bates as Amy’s mom (in a recasting, as Annie O’Donnell had done a cameo in the role in Season 4), Laurie Metcalf as Sheldon’s mom, and Jerry O’Connell as his brother, as well as Mark Hamill as himself officiating the wedding.
There was a small delay of the nuptials, but overall the affair largely went off without a hitch, with no big twists or a cliffhanger, giving fans a glorious coda to the long courtship.
In an interview with Deadline, Big Bang executive producer and showrunner Steve Holland gives a behind-the-scene look at the big wedding; why there were no hiccups; how Hamill, Bates and O’Connell were cast; and where was Mee-Maw? (A director’s cut of the episode may have that answer.)
Holland, who works closely with Big Bang co-creator/executive producer Chuck Lorre, also talks about the changing dynamic on the show next season with three married couples and Raj as the only single in the core group, hints whether there are more Big Bang babies on the way, and whether a Young Sheldon crossover is in the cards. He also addresses the big question — will Season 12 be the series’ last.
DEADLINE: Save for a short delay, the wedding between Sheldon and Amy went on smoothly. Why was that and did you consider any mishaps and obstacles, a cliffhanger ending?
HOLLAND: We did an episode earlier in the season where Sheldon and Amy decided to go to City Hall and get married and then at the last minute, Sheldon decided that he wanted a real wedding. We didn’t feel like we could do a second fake-out wedding — at that point it felt like we would just be messing with the audience. Early on, as we were breaking the story, I decided that I didn’t want this wedding to be a “will they or won’t they” episode. I didn’t want us to make up fake drama to keep them from getting married or have one of them get cold feet. It didn’t feel honest to these characters who have come so far and grown so much and who deserve their perfect wedding. As I was talking about it with Chuck, he felt that we didn’t need a big cliffhanger. People had been waiting eight years for this moment, our job was to make sure that we got this wedding right.
DEADLINE: Why wasn’t Mee-Maw at the wedding or at least acknowledged like Sheldon’s late father was given how close their relationship is? Will we see her as well as Sheldon and Amy’s families again next season?
HOLLAND: Unfortunately this episode came in very long and we had to start making hard decisions about what was serving the story and what we could lose. We had recorded a phone message from Mee-Maw explaining why she couldn’t be there (she is in her 90s after all), and sadly we had to cut it for time. It was a hard cut to make, not only because it was a sweet moment but also because I know people are going to wonder why Mee-Maw didn’t get mentioned, but at the end of the day we had to make the best episode we could and a 30-second phone call was going to be 30 seconds less wedding we got to see. I know that CBS is planning to post some bonus content online after the episode airs, and I think Mee-Maw’s phone call will be one of the things they put up.
DEADLINE: How did the (re)casting of Amy’s mom with Kathy Bates and the castings of Jerry O’Connell and Mark Hamill happen? Were there any other guest stars you wanted to get for the finale?
HOLLAND: Chuck did the show Disjointed with Kathy last year, so when we were writing the script he reached out to her to see if she would be interested and she said yes! I think we were in the middle of writing the finale when she signed on and it certainly made writing the role incredibly fun when you knew Kathy Bates was going to be saying the words!
Casting Sheldon’s brother Georgie was interesting because it was the first time we were casting someone who had been originated on Young Sheldon. So we had a template to go on with Montana Jordan’s performance as young Georgie. One of the writers brought up Jerry’s name and he kind of looked like a grown-up version of Montana. Plus he had played Texan before in Jerry Maguire so we knew he could do the accent. And it turns out he and his family are fans of both shows and he was excited to be a part of it.
When we first had the idea that one of Sheldon’s friends gets him a cool guest officiant for the wedding, Mark Hamill was at the top of our list. I am a lifelong Star Wars fan so I was excited just to get the chance to talk with him on the phone, even if he ended up passing. At the time, we didn’t have a script which made him (understandably) a little nervous about signing on to something sight unseen. But he came in and sat with the writers for a few hours (that was a good day) and we talked him through what the role would be. At the end of it he decided to take a leap of faith on us. We’re so lucky he did because he’s hilarious on the show and so nice and generous in person. When they say don’t meet your heroes, there needs to be an asterisk that says “unless your hero is Mark Hamill, in which case, definitely meet him, he’s great!”
DEADLINE: With three married couples, how will the dynamic on the show change next season? Are there more Big Bang babies on the way?
HOLLAND: I think it will be fun watching Sheldon and Amy navigate married life and in-laws. Hopefully the dynamic is always gradually changing with all of these couples as they grow up. Raj is now the only unmarried member of their friend group and that will weigh on him. As for babies, we already have two and a Sheldon, that might be enough for now.
DEADLINE: What is in store for each of the main characters next season?
HOLLAND: My focus was just on making it through this season and making it (and especially the wedding) as good as we could possibly make it. I think it’s amazing that after 11 years we still have stories about these characters that we were excited to tell. That said, we haven’t really started sitting down and talking about next season yet. But those conversations will start happening soon.
DEADLINE: Any plans for a Young Sheldon crossover with flashbacks on Big Bang featuring younger versions of the characters?
HOLLAND: Nothing specific — again, we haven’t started talking about next season yet. It seems like a fun possibility but the truth is, we never start out with an agenda like “we have to do a cross-over episode.” But if we found the right story that worked for both shows it could happen.
DEADLINE: Are you approaching Season 12 as a final season, building toward a series finale, or are you keeping the door open to go beyond that?
HOLLAND: Right now I know we have a Season 12; I don’t know what the future holds beyond that. So our plan is to make the best season we can and not leave anything on the table. I’m sure we’ll know before the end whether we’re writing a series finale or not.