By: Marina Gomberg

When you study at University of Utah College of Fine Arts, you’re not just introduced to some of the finest faculty members on the planet. You oftentimes also get to enjoy the benefits of those faculty members’ vast and esteemed networks, too. 

This was the case with the graduating seniors in the University of Utah Department of Theatre’s Actor Training Program (ATP), who got to have one final guest artist experience with assistant professor, Robert Scott Smith’s graduate school buddy — oh, and Emmy and Golden Globe winner — Jim Parsons.

Smith wanted to provide something really special to the ATP students who are graduating during this global pandemic, and a visit with Parsons was his Big Bang Theory (har har), especially because the two of them had their own experience graduating during a particularly challenging time.

“We finished our graduate work from the University of San Diego after 9/11,” Smith noted. “So, I thought the students might uniquely benefit from hearing how he faced life after school in what felt like a pretty uncertain world.”

In an intimate and invite-only Zoom meeting, Smith and Parsons bantered back and forth about their time together in school, and Smith posed questions to Parsons from the personal to the professional.

 “I think the thickest common thread of our experience to this experience is that it forces you to realize your commitment to what it is you want,” Parsons said, as he reflected on how the world’s uncertainty made him surer of his own drive and passion as an artist.

The two spoke about life in quarantine, protecting art in the dollar-driven business of artmaking, Parson’s work producing the series “Special,” and his works on Broadway, navigating between playing to a camera versus a live audience, the value of being prepared, and handing life when it all feels like trial by fire.

He opened up genuinely about his own personal writing practices, the discovery of his aversion to the business side of the work, and how he overcomes his own doubts and fears.

 “I do think that’s a big part of it, is to understand that fear and uncertainty are the companions — they’re always in the side car. And when you quit fighting them — for me at least — they become smaller, for lack of engaging with them as much. But they also offer their own excitement and mystery, and you learn, sometimes, to let that be the joy.”

After about 45 minutes of what felt like watching two longtime friends catch up in their living room (which even included the recipe for Parsons’ apparently famous Velveeta chip dip), Smith opened the session to student questions, which ranged from the more pragmatic and tactical to philosophical and lofty. Each of the questions, though, was paired with profuse gratitude for the opportunity to hear from Parsons and pick his brain.

It was a big bang, indeed.

Parsons sent one final thought after the call for Smith to share with the students:

"YOU ARE ENOUGH. I think it’s THE most CRUCIAL information I ever received and it means something new and deeper to me with each passing year but, as an actor, I HIGHLY advise saying it to yourself as often as you can remember to do so and until you believe it!"

Published in Blog