Geek TV hero Johnny Galecki, who stars in the hit sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, left school when he was 14, worked his butt off, made his own luck, and is now the highest paid actor in television (earning $1million an episode). While he doesn’t advocate that other kids should follow his lead and leave school early, he does admit to feeling “incredible fortunate” in his life. Playing Dr. Leonard Hofstadter, one of a group of smart but often socially awkward young men, Galecki, his merry boys and their very able female counterparts, have endeared themselves to fans worldwide. In Part 1, Galecki talks to us about “geeking out,” Apple’s Steve Jobs and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and his own love of French poet Rimbaud.
Johnny Galecki as Dr. Leonard Hofstadter
Q—To “geek out” has become a verb, what does “geek” mean to you?
A—I think it’s really being especially passionate about something. It could be that I am geeking out over Jon Krakauer’s new book or the Foo Fighter’s documentary. That I’m totally geeking out over Jack White’s new album, people say it all the time now. And it means I’m completely passionate, feverish about this new thing I’ve discovered. It’s wonderful.
Q—So, does The Big Bang Theory resonate because it channels the inner geek in all of us?
A—Yes, these guys, these characters are into their science, math and Star Wars and Star Trek trivia, but they’re social outsiders, and everyone has felt that way, being on the outside of some group. I’ve also never considered myself a comedic actor despite spending most of my resume in comedies. If the writing is good and funny, then you can just play the honesty of the character and it will come across funny. The cast also happens to all get along, not only meeting for dinner but also taking vacations together, it’s almost sad, isn’t it? But it’s an incredibly supportive love fest.
Q—Why are geek movies and TV shows so hot right now?
A—People look at the sciences very differently today. Growing up, when I thought “scientist” I pictured a solitary person in a lab in a basement somewhere, with beakers and chemicals. Now we use the products of that genius and inventiveness in our everyday lives, in our e-gadgets, devices and even autos. And so that image has become much, much cooler. You’re talking about brilliant people like Steve Jobs, who’s the topic of Danny Boyle’s upcoming biopic, Steve Jobs, starring Michael Fassbender. Or the Facebook guys like Mark Zuckerberg, who was the feature of the 2010 movie, The Social Network.
Johnny Galecki – TV’s highest paid actor
Q—The scientists in your TV show often use Dell and Alienware computers, and Droid systems, what do you personally use?
A—I’m basically inept at major tech things. I go for the most user-friendly devices possible so I’ve become a total Apple guy — Macbook, iPod, iPad, iPhone…I’m looking at the Apple Watch. Interestingly, we visited UCLA to hang out with the physicists to do initial research for our series. We walked away with a lot. Firstly, was how much coffee they drink. Secondly, they had a lot of stickers with a circle and line drawn through Apple. These guys were opinionated about their stuff. We reported that back to our prop master, and that’s probably why they’ve had Dell and Alienware computers on our set.
Q—Alcide Bava is the name of your production company, and you have a cool movie in the works called The Master Cleanse. Tell us why you chose Alcide Bava, which was a name that inspirational French poet Arthur Rimbaud used.
A—It was the pseudonym Rimbaud gave himself in a letter sent to Théodore de Banville. Why did I choose it? Well, it’s Latin and it was a favorite credo of his in his teens in 1860s Paris…it had a figurative connotation of stinging words. But I’ll leave it up to others to conjecture why. Rimbaud was a libertine and a restless soul, and I’ve been a student of his work for a very long time. I left school very early on, and was kind of inspired to read, and I became a voracious reader. Personally, I also like to travel, and although I’d like to say I’m restless, a more accurate term might be antsy!
Ashley Jude Collie is a journalist/scriptwriter and Huffington Post blogger, whose upcoming young adult novel Fire Horse deals with issues of intolerance, science gone mad, and what it is to be human.