Jim Parsons looks back on his time auditioning to play How I Met Your Mother's Barney before landing the role of Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory. It has been more than a decade since the actor debuted the socially-inept genius in the CBS nerd-centric sitcom. Parsons was so great in the role that Sheldon was often considered The Big Bang Theory's true lead. Had things gone differently, however, he could have starred in a different hit comedy.
In Jesicca Radloff's The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story Of The Epic Hit Series, Parsons recalls his time auditioning for the role of Barney in How I Met Your Mother. He admits he was skeptical of the process since he knew he didn't fit the character's description. HIMYM's Barney ultimately went to Neil Patrick Harris, who was also nothing like the way the role was described on paper. Read Parsons' full quote below:
"I also auditioned—and got called back a couple times—for the role of Barney on How I Met Your Mother. But I didn't want to audition for it because they described him in the casting breakdown as a "big lug of a guy." I was like, What are they fucking thinking?! I'm not a big lug of a guy! [Laughs] And then when Neil Patrick Harris got it, I was like, Oh, talk about a lesson! Not that we're the same at all, but he's not a big lug of a guy, let me say that. And I thought, Don't read that crap in the breakdown anymore. Just forget all of that. Go in and do what you want to do with the material."
While there's no guarantee that Parsons would have secured the How I Met Your Mother role had he been more convinced he could do the job, it seemed like the producers saw something in him that made him a viable candidate. Given this, it wasn't outside the realm of possibility that Parsons would eventually be cast as Barney, which would have seen him pass up on playing Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory. It sounds like a wild idea, and not just because Parsons was so great as Sheldon, but also because Harris was equally phenomenal as Barney.
Since both Parsons and Harris were integral parts of The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother's respective successes, it's possible those shows wouldn't have become the big hits they did had there been a change in the casting of their characters. Interestingly, Sheldon was initially described as someone similar to Barney in terms of his womanizing ways. That eventually changed, thankfully, as it would have significantly changed the direction of The Big Bang Theory if CBS moved forward with it.
Both shows are long finished, but their legacies continue thanks to their enduring popularity boosted by their respective spin-offs. As Young Sheldon potentially ends with season 7, Warner Bros. is looking to further expand The Big Bang Theoryuniverse with another offshoot. Whether Parsons will be involved with the new show has yet to be confirmed. Meanwhile, the How I Met Your Mother franchise continues with its spinoff, How I Met Your Father, on which Harris has guest-starred as Barney.