The Office soldiered on after Steve Carell left. Two And A Half Men found a way without Charlie Sheen. (Whether either of these decisions was a good move is up for debate.) So when Jim Parsons told producers that he’d had enough of playing Sheldon on Big Bang Theory, he simply assumed the show would go on without him.

He was wrong.

It’s not like Parsons had another job lined up, he says in Jessica Radloff’s new book, The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story of the Epic Hit Series. But he knew it was time. So he asked producer Chuck Lorre for a meeting prior to the start of season 12, a courtesy so that writers could plan a full slate of shows knowing that Parsons wouldn’t be around for the following one. 

“I certainly didn’t see it coming,” admits Lorre. “I said, ‘Oh. OK. Well, this is kind of a big conversation. A big conversation that impacts hundreds of people. Not just the actors but the crew.’” 

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Soaking up that sweet People's Choice Awards sunshine

A big decision but Parsons’ mind was made up. And he thought he was only making a decision for himself. “I wasn’t ever purposely suggesting this show needs to wrap up.” 

Simon Helberg, who played Howard, was also considering moving on after Season 12, but he didn’t believe Big Bang would end either. Surely there would be some “kind of attempt from the producers or the studio or the network to keep the show running.”

But despite the show’s enormous success, the plug was pulled. Writer/producer Steve Molero says there was no question of going on without Sheldon. For an ensemble show, it would just seem wrong. Which raised another problem: How to tell the cast before word leaked to the press. The solution was an all-hands-on-deck meeting in Lorre’s office, which Molero admits might not have been the best way to do it.

The issue? Rather than telling the cast himself, Lorre gathered the troops--and then told Parsons to take it from there, leaving it to the actor to inform his fellow castmates that they would soon be out of work. “I was uncomfortable,” says Parsons, “with how shocking the moment was.” (In hindsight, Lorre says he wonders if he misstepped by having Parsons break the news. We’d say yes.) 

While no one had a contract beyond that season and the show hadn’t been officially renewed, most assumed Big Bang Theory would be back. Kaley Cuoco says cast members cried for hours that day. “I couldn’t breathe,” she says. 

Johnny Galecki was shocked that Parsons hadn’t talked to his castmates first, though he understood how Parsons felt. Heck, he pretty much felt the same way himself about running out of creative gas on the long-running show. But “I was kind of losing it as I saw my castmates emotionally crumble upon hearing the news.”

A lot of headlines reported that Jim Parsons essentially ended Big Bang Theory, but most everyone in the oral history says that’s a bum rap. The actor made a decision for himself, other powers-that-be made a decision about the show. Simple as that. And for some cast members? The news was a relief.

Kunal “Raj” Nayyar, for one, felt a giant weight lift off his shoulders. “Something within me was released,” he says. “I had no resistance. I was ready to spend more time with my family. I was ready to start again. And yes, it was sad and I cried, but there was no resistance from me. I was ready to say goodbye.”

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