Johnny Galecki Sizes Up His New Big Bang Romance: Has Leonard Given Up on Penny?

CBS’ The Big Bang Theory (Thursdays at 8/7c) this season is big on romance – or, at least, um, close relationships between members of the opposite sex (where Sheldon and Amy Farrah Fowler are concerned). Most recently, Leonard elected to pursue something of substance with Priya, despite the protests of her big brother, Raj. Will Penny, already bothered by her ex’s meaningful hook-up, have more to say on the matter? And if she does, would Leonard even hear her out?

Big Bang lead Johnny Galecki shared with TVLine his take on his character’s cracklin’ love life, as well as one pairing of characters he believes would be “unforgettable.”

TVLINE | I’ve been enjoying the new arc with Leonard and Priya. What was your reaction when you first got wind of it?
I thought it made a whole lotta sense. She did one episode this season, and we just really loved Aarti [Mann], and her work ethic kind of melded with everybody else’s. And it makes sense as far as the characters. She is Leonard’s sort of intellectual equivalent, so they’re able to communicate more effortlessly than Leonard and Penny (Kaley Cuoco), certainly.

TVLINE | I have to imagine we’ve only scratched the surface as far as Penny’s jealousy.
I don’t know if I would call it jealousy as much as her realization of her own limitations in the ways of love. I don’t think she didn’t return the sentiment of love to Leonard because she doesn’t love him; I just think she’s emotionally incapable of nurturing something like that. They’re young and so without the tools to really connect, especially because they’re from such different universes.

TVLINE | What will an ongoing relationship with Priya do to Leonard’s relationship with Raj (Kunal Nayyar)?
[Laughs] I don’t know, but it makes me laugh so hard. Raj is not handling it well! I love how the writers treat [the boys’] romantic relationships because it’s never fully convenient. The more Raj understands that this is not some cheap fling but a substantial relationship, he’s less bothered by it.

TVLINE | Do you ever look back on early episodes and find yourself with a new appreciation for how much Leonard has evolved?
Absolutely — and the show itself. It’s always interesting for me to watch the pilot of an established show because you see how the writers and actors weren’t really sure what the show was and what the dynamics were. If you look at the pilot for Seinfeld, for example, it’s practically unrecognizable. We’ve always talked about the growth of these characters being extremely slow — a lot of two steps forward, three or sometimes four steps back — but I did feel that Leonard having his heart shattered is a real defining moment in somebody’s life. After something like that, it seemed unrealistic for him to, for example, let Sheldon (Jim Parsons) exasperate him the way he did before. Leonard has now seen worse days than Sheldon being a difficult roommate. He’s maturing as slow as molasses, but he is a maturing character.

TVLINE | Would you say that Leonard is the most well adjusted of the boys?
[Laughs] I think it depends on the topic at hand, or the challenge. That’s what I’m told, but I still feel like he handles most things quite poorly.

TVLINE | As a viewer of Big Bang Theory, which relationship do you most enjoy watching?
I love the Howard and Bernadette relationship. There’s a sweetness to it that I find very, very touching.

TVLINE | Right. As we saw last week, it’s like they have these fleeting instances of “normal” romance, and then things get terribly abnormal.
Exactly. But that’s how we all are. People are complicated; you put two of them together and it’s generally a mess, but hopefully a beautiful mess. I love Melissa Rauch’s work; her readings on things make me howl.

TVLINE | Chuck Lorre told me that he hoped to have Christine Baranski (The Good Wife) back this spring as Leonard’s mother. Have you heard anything on that?
I’ve not, no. That would be wonderful though. I always have a really good time with her, and with Laurie Metcalf (as Sheldon’s mom). I would love to see the two of them together, maybe a Thanksgiving episode where the moms come visit. To watch those two play would be unforgettable.

TVLINE | Do you see Leonard and Penny gravitating back toward each other by season’s end, or is that too soon?
I don’t know if it would be by the end of this season, but I do feel they are the loves of one another’s lives. And with new evidence to show why that might be — and if Leonard had it a little bit more together — he might re-approach her from an angle that would warm her heart some. But I think that as far as Leonard is concerned, he doesn’t have a vote in the matter!

Big Bang fans: Do you want Leonard and Penny back together? Or are you happy to see him dating someone else?