Late on Friday afternoon a group of students gathered in 1400 Chem for the opportunity to have Mark Cendrowski answer their questions. Cendrowski, most famous for being the lead director on the well-known TV series “The Big Bang Theory,” spent two hours with students, answering their questions about what it was like to work in the highest-rated comedy on television and in the TV industry in general.
After talking about the large mix of concentrations in the room (the event was advertised to people from everyone from film majors to Physics majors), Cendrowski discussed how the physics community has embraced and loved the show. The set also has intense conversation about science. Neil DeGrasse Tyson was on the show right after he debunked Pluto and got into a heated debate with members of the crew about the subject. He was also proud of how the show has led to a renewed interest in physics at universities across the U.S.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Cendrowski also discussed why he prefers to keep the mood on the set light when he directs.
“We play games all the time. We don’t just come in and make it the drudgery of work and make it like a factory,” he said. “If you’re having fun it’s easier to make people laugh.”
Cendrowski spent most of the event discussing his role in “The Big Bang Theory,” including everything from the production process to tales from the set. These included some individual stories about working with a few of the leading actors. He spoke about his lengthy conversations with Johnny Galecki about his character, how great he felt when Jim Parsons thanked him in his Emmy speech and how uplifting it was to watch Kaley Cuoco blossom as an actress during her eight years on the show (she was only 20 when it started).
One of the highlights of the talk was when he touched on some of the guest stars that appeared on the show. When he mentioned working with comedy legend Bob Newhart, Cendrowski noted, “I can’t believe I got to tell him what to do.”
One of the best was the story of what happened when Stephen Hawking appeared in the season five episode, “The Hawking Excitation.” They didn’t know that he would be on the show until two days before going to California Institute of Technology to film the scene. Hawking actually did all the dialogue himself, using a motion sensor in his glasses to speak. He also attended a run through two days later, where he saw Simon Helberg’s character, Howard, do an impression of his voice (Helberg apologized profusely afterward).
Perhaps most importantly, Cendrowski talked about how much he loves working on the show.
“It’s an actual dream for what any director goes through,” Cendrowski said. “To (be) on a hit show that is funny, that people still talk about, that wins awards, it’s got all the elements. And, there’s nice people. There’s no prima donnas on the show. They have been friends since the beginning; they support one another; they’re there for one another and they’re professional. There’s nothing more you can ask for.”
In the interview, Cendrowski touched on why he loves sharing his experience with students like he did at the Q&A event.
“To me, it’s so invigorating,” Cendrowski said. “I love giving back. I love the idea of (it), because I was in their seats one time myself … I realized there’s an appreciative value. I hear it from all the teachers saying the kids really appreciate it, someone from the real world, someone from this school that has made it. They are hopefully as an inspiration from them to do the same thing.”